Mildred’s Mountain book 4:
The Up Down Mountain Waltz:
Mildred’s 1959 Alaska Homesteading Story in Her Own Words
Transcribed by her eldest daughter, Linda Ann Lloyd Danielson, MA, A.T.R.
Editor: Ramona Ann Danielson, MS
During the summer of 1957 Mildred Ann Cahill Lloyd (1925–2003), and her husband of eight years, William Dennison Lloyd (1926–2000), left their suburban Los Angeles tract home to move to Alaska with their four young children. They spent their first year in Alaska renting a modernized log house in Eagle River, a small town 15 miles away from Anchorage. Mildred was a homemaker. Bill was a civil engineer employed by the Army Corp of Engineers at Elemendorf Air Force Base.
City-woman Mildred fell wildly in love with Alaska the instant she arrived and soon caught land fever. Spurred on by his wife to search for available homestead land within commuting distance of Anchorage, Bill filed a claim with the Bureau of Land Management (Land Office) on 160 acres high on a mountainside in the back of Eagle River Valley on Wednesday, May 7, 1958. The family had one year from this date to be living on the land as part of the process of meeting governmental ‘proving up’ requirements to gain title (patent) to their homestead.
After one year of hectic preparations the family finally moved up the mountain as Mildred describes in her 1959 words within this book. At this time both of my parents were 32. Their son, John was 9 in 4th grade; I was 8 in 3rd; Cindy was 6 in 1st and Sharon was 4.
Mildred’s disorganized papers, stored in broken and taped-together boxes within an Arizona storage locker for over 20 years, came into my hands after her death in 2003. I spent two years piecing together her mostly undated shambled letters so that I could transcribe her entire surviving collection of over 500,000 words. As I prepare Mildred’s writings for publication in the multiple volumes of a series titled, “The Demise of Mildred: A forensic biography of my severely abusive Borderline Personality Disorder mother,” I have come to an important understanding. Not only did Mildred’s mental illness cause her to severely abuse me, it also prevented her from accomplishing her dream of completing and publishing her own Alaskan homesteading story.
It is with a humble forgiveness based on my informed compassion for Mother’s lifetime of suffering that I respectfully present this very special segment of her story as she wrote it in her own words over 50 years ago. By the end of these 1959 weeks a miracle was achieved for Mildred. All the forces within her combined with the circumstances of her life to give her what I believe was the longest period of reprieve from her devastating mental illness that she ever experienced from the times of her early childhood until her tragic death. Over the days Mildred wrote the words of this book about being on the mountain in winter she was in what I call ‘a perfect state of grace’.
Mildred wrote to her mother, Bea, who lived in Pasadena, California. Some of Bea’s letters are included here, as well. Mildred’s brother, Charles (Charlie) and his wife Carolyn lived near her mother, and are usually referred to in her letters as C. and C. As this story begins our family had left our little trailer stranded at the bottom of the mountain as we finally reached our homestead ‘back in’ Eagle River Valley at the end of a very primitive dirt Jeep-trail road. Although our own mountain road was usually impassable, up and down it we went as you shall follow through Mildred’s words. (‘*Notes’ is used to indicate pieces Mildred wrote in notebooks and on separate pieces of paper that were not in letter form. On occasion I add notes [in italics within brackets] in the text.)
I. I’m sure I’d win and they’d give us a tractor!
May 18, 1959 Monday
*I’ll be expecting all letters back in next mail!! money
Received your latest letter on the way to town. Idea of book, good, but as you know it’s been my idea from beginning but rush job NO – Please send me back my letters now – I write to you instead of keeping notes – I don’t want a review. I want my letters NOW PLEASE. If you want to really know all that happens this is the only way I can keep you informed but you must send each letter right back so I can put it in my three-hole notebook in order. So please send my letters back from March on –
I have so much to write and my ideas are endless and there were none at apartment [where we lived in Anchorage the winter before] so at least the tough homesteading brings release of ideas and who knows, perhaps someday a book or a movie but it must be done in my way or not at all. You alone can understand that.
Thank him for his interest and maybe later, his help — [Referring to her film maker brother, Charlie.]
We have had a time – but now I hesitate should I take notes or send them to you? It’s my way of sharing these experiences with you. I want to continue. Read them aloud but they are MINE and MINE ALONE. You won’t ever let him copy them, will you? They are MINE to do with as I want. You must never use them in any way. Promise???
It seems ages since I wrote to you and every day is a book in itself, believe me. Speaking of writing did you know that you sent an envelope – air mail – without contents? This last letter as you can see told about book etc. Well, several days ago I received a plain air mail envelope, addressed and all but empty! Mystery? Did it fall out in the mail OR did you forget to enclose the letter?
Still no news or letters at all from lawyer on Altadena house [they are trying to sell in California]. Bill said on the way to town today – of course, he was very discouraged and I don’t blame him – it’s all been pretty awful – that we “can’t go on if we don’t get some money to work with.” The ‘so-called’ – rent we’re supposed to be saving goes out on homesteading supplies, gas in our vehicles to get back and forth and repairs on the Jeep because of the road – and that isn’t ALL – oh no, we must still pay to get the road fixed enough to get the trailer up – at least $300. [The trailer was still stranded down below in a neighbor’s field.]
We brought McCrary – the road-builder everyone tells us not to hire because he drinks and then does some pretty wild things with his tractor BUT [can’t read this word] is too busy and between you and I no sane person would want to risk his tractor (or himself I might add) on our crazy mountain side – so – last week we decided something must be done.
Bill took a vacation (another LAUGH – HA! HA! HA!!!). I talked to principal and teachers several weeks ago about taking children out of school for little remainder of this year. [School year ended May 22nd. We were making the long commute with Father to finish the school year in Anchorage.] They’re so dogged tired by time they get there and it’s so late by time they get home – I promised to tutor them at home – so all was agreed and then Jeep broke down so I waited.
Well, as I said, last week we tried again – and since Bill would be home there wouldn’t be any way to get them back and forth to Anchorage – we would live on mountain and not come down!
Well, that same day we went to see McCrary who homesteaded also on the side of mountain, too – and as he once told me when discussing our ‘problem’ – to put it mildly – he would be better able to build a road to our place because he had been through it all himself and I guess he probably has as his is very high and has a magnificent view too – but (not bragging) it’s nothing in comparison with our view!!!! And his place is a MESS and his land is not nearly as pretty. His has the biggest trees on his land I’ve seen in this area so he had in a way more of a problem but still he did NOT run into a marsh!
His mother is the old lady – at least 75 – I told you about who drives her own Jeep and homesteaded above them! Mom, seriously – now this is a deep, dark secret – after we pave the way and have a decent road and most important of all our PATENT – and if Butners give up and I’m sure they will then you could file on their place above us – and only come up summers. We could do the hiring for clearing etc. and it would be little expense for you alone to have a tiny log house. Well, that’s for the future but think about it!!! A Haven for writing! And so close to us!!!!
Well, McCrary does have a dirt road still naturally – but it’s a road good enough that we drove our Ford right up to his door!! BUT it took him five years to get it that way. They carried in supplies at first, and did everything we’ve had to do. He used to work in town but now is in the road building snow clearing business only. He started in when he bought his first tractor for his own place.
The next day Bill met them – his wife and mother (Eskimo foster child) came too and brought them ‘back in’. His mother is so nice. They all belie their dirty, unkempt appearance by using an astounding vocabulary and are well read and well educated. They look always like we look when we’ve hiked through the mud down our mountain! His mother is neat and nice. She had just come back from L.A. where she spent the winter!! – A small world!
He said he’d do it and our hopes were high. He too advised our buying our own small tractor – oh Mom, it’s the only answer – but how?? Then and only then we could:
1. haul our water up
2. haul our supplies up
3. improve present road
4. build a new road (next summer)
5. haul our trailer up
6. plow our own snow and clear our own land
Who ever thought I’d think in terms of tractors and such. I haven’t bought one dress or skirt since I’ve been here and never allow myself to entertain such thoughts – just equipment equipment and more homesteading supplies.
He said he has one big tractor still across the river and the other was broken down. Some man hired him to build a road across the river – (it’s really wild – absolutely nobody over there at all. It’s all open but dark as mountain skirts out most of sun) – and to drag a ten foot big new trailer back there. (Tell Carolyn I’m sure she can’t visualize how we’re living in our trailer – it’s ten years old, narrow and small and inefficient for six people – only room for two and I feel like a sardine!)
Anyways to get back to my story, he did all this – the man put in a ‘Yukon stove’ and some hunters went in last winter and burned a fire and didn’t put it out and the whole trailer burned down and no insurance on it!
McCrary left the tractor there to do some clearing this summer as he was already over there when the first snow fell. That man is not giving up!
Well, anyways our hopes were high – he said that Monday – today he’d be back – then when Bill called him later he said NO he ran into more trouble in repairing the tractor than he’d expected and recommended Mr. Tuck.
So – Friday we stopped to see him. He only has a small tractor and hires ‘an operator’ who he says is good but he’d have to see the job first, so Saturday Bill once again had to meet him and bring him back. He too said OK. Said he would have present road improved only enough to bring trailer up and at least three day’s work at $12.00 an hour. BUT it still couldn’t be driven over even by a Jeep – another road will have to be built!! So now we know! NOW WHAT? He’s to come out this Wednesday or Thursday and start. What choice do we have?? (I know but the answer is still NO!!)
Last Saturday we bought a Yukon Stove. Bill hauled it one mile up mountain on his back – oh, poor Bill. We’re down to our last penny and I mean literally – we scrounged for enough money to buy it. It was $16.35. It’s medium size – 22” wide – lightweight black metal and the answer for us now because
1. We need heat of some kind to take the chill off of the Jamesway [portable canvas military housing] –
2. It must be hauled up and we have no way to bring fuel up mountain!
3. It’s inexpensive and economical.
4. It burns wood – which we can gather up there.
Once many years ago there was a forest fire which burned the entire Eagle River Valley. Absolutely nobody inhabited that region at that time so it was allowed to burn out. Consequently there are not many large trees and many young ones as you noticed which is especially noticeable in our ‘homesteaders’ valley’. It takes fifty years or so for trees to decay in Alaska so there are lots of half-burned trees and many rotted, fallen ones – which I want cleaned up anyways – which make ideal dry firewood.
We also needed a camp stove – as our gas stove is in the trailer and anyways we need a camp stove for when gas gives out. We priced them all over town and found the cheapest and same brand of everything at B and J Surplus – where we bought Jamesway, lamps etc. A two burner one cost about $13.00.
The gun Bill wants was $110.00 and I needed a sleeping bag as we can’t bring our beds up on our backs but can bring sleeping bags up one by one by one. Oh such labor, through that mud and side-stepping it through the jungle and maze of alders – oh, such labor!!! BUT we couldn’t even afford to price it!! I would sleep on our old chaise lounge mat off of our old redwood lounge. The buttons have come off in the middle and so the stuffing is matted and terribly uncomfortable but I had no choice!
And as it was we only bought the Yukon Stove and nothing else. We’ll cook outdoors like this until next pay day.
So back home with our stove hating ourselves for not having money to buy what we had needed so very, very badly!
Saturday night Bill made a makeshift pack board and carried that enormous stove up the mountain and hooked it up!!
Oh yes, we’ve needed some pack boards!! It would be such an added improvement – rather than carrying things in bags, blankets etc.
We use our California BBQ, rocks set on top works very well – and hasn’t it come a long ways? From California patio to Alaskan homestead!!!!!!! But made a nice cook range and worked fine – but last night it poured rain and we couldn’t work outdoors and Jamesway leaked and oh Mom, was awful and then Sharon got sick – very sick and we came to town. More of this later.
But those pack boards cost money too. There’s one especially of lightweight aluminum I need and one for John – well, later, later – anyways I HATE carrying things up that mountain!!
Well, then we all took off. Linda carried the kitten, Cindy carried herself. My they both do well and are all the best sports and John carried a pack and I carried a basket of food and a blanket packed full and poor darling Bill. He made his pack of birch pieces and even had a piece of material wrapped around his forehead to help support the box filled with canned goods, blankets, books (school) and clothes! I couldn’t even lift it. He should have been stooped over – and up the mountain he trudged.
I felt far better then after being sick and did real well and told Bill I’d start first as I’m an awful slow poke. It’s a terribly steep climb but that now wouldn’t seem like anything if we didn’t have that horrible mud, which we have all the way up through the twisted alder forest, which is so witchy looking we all expect to see a witch riding by on her broomstick!! – We don’t leave the mud until we get to the spruce trees and can see our own beautiful land ahead – such a change, you can’t imagine. Our first steep trouble hill dried out but oh, so steep.
Then immediately MUD which gets worse and worse and twisted alder tree forest all swampy, wet and mosquito infested.
Once I looked at Bill and Mom, there were literally millions all over him – it was horrible! I put this OFF repellant we carry at all times all over him – and the children said, “Mommy, they’re all over you too.” – And sure enough each child was swarmed too! I guess Linda and I are lucky – we’re not sweet. We hardly get bitten at all. The others do terribly. Last week we got John a crew cut and his poor head and neck are covered but Cindy’s swell to enormous sizes and give her a fever. She seems to be allergic to them. Sunday she had a fever and was miserable – I know from the bites. Saturday night was the worst night we ever spent – more later.
You can see how I pour all this out to you and my pen won’t keep up with my head BUT I used to write in my notebook first and then copy off to you. Now I’m just writing to you and please send back! They’re my gold – and mail each back now with your next letter. I’ll start numbering them. I also want you to keep them in the envelopes with post marks on them. Later I feel, who knows we might need them legally if anyone ever tried to take our place away.
As I was saying – we have to trudge on the sides of the road in most places to get out of the worst mud. You sink down, down and lose your boots in it. Yet, on sides are alder branches – twisted and you have to climb in and out through brush and it’s marshy and boggy – HORRIBLE and especially with a pack.
Then suddenly you come to the high land – and it’s another world. Oh, for a helicopter to skip over the marsh and land on the mountain!!
As you emerge from the alder forest you come out into the opening and it’s a gorgeous sight – but still a climb but dry, dry, dry but oh, so steep!! And by then we’re all so tired. Bill wants to get Jeep truck brought (winched) over this area so we’ll have it at least to drive us on over the remaining hike. But once we hit the dry steep area we can look below us and see the view!! And above us see our land to urge us on.
As I started to say way back – I hiked on and with children and Smokey. We were way above Bill – found out later he had to stop and lighten his load – Smokey bounded off into the woods and all of a sudden we heard her bark (she seldom does). She barked and barked and barked. Bill told me later she barks equally hard at a porcupine, a bird, a squirrel, a moose or a bear. But that doesn’t help either and by her sound it frightened me. Often times moose are fine if not scared by dogs and then will attack or run in fright wildly without any sense of direction.
All around us were those alders. They’re not good climbing trees but grow bent and crooked in all directions. John found a big one and shimmied up to the stronger high branches ignoring the breaking lower rotten ones – to safety. But what about us? I told the girls to climb – ha, ha. We all got up on one crooked branch and stayed and yelled for Bill. He heard us and dropped his pack and came running. We got Smokey back. It probably was a moose as on the way back today the same thing happened – only Bill was with us and I’ll never again hike alone – even though he doesn’t carry a gun, I feel safe and he does carry a knife.
We saw an enormous moose standing in the alders. He scared it away and we hoped we wouldn’t find her in the road below us. We didn’t.
Several weeks ago Bill was going up alone and he heard a bark and a rush noise of brush and looked up and there was an enormous moose staring him, a few feet away, in the eye. It was an unusual albino color – almost blonde he described it. He says he’s heard they get lighter in color as they get older and ornerier too. Well, he stared at it and it stared at him and he eyed the tree sizes and suddenly it turned around and left! He says he sure had a few bad moments because Smokey ran circles around it and wouldn’t leave – BUT once she did the moose left!
Mom, we’re really camping out and you now I’ve never been camping before. I try so hard to tell myself, “Let’s make it FUN – after all it isn’t everyone who can camp like this –.” Well, sometimes it works – other times I want to go home and wash up and relax after my camping trip only it is HOME. – It’s not easy to pretend when you wake up after sleeping on the hard floor on a bumpy pad — the children sleep only in their bags – and look around at the filthy Jamesway – and know there’s no way to wash them and they should be hosed down – the whole place should be soaped and hosed – ha, ha – we don’t even have a trickle of a stream.
Now doesn’t that beat all? We trudge through water all the way up and get there and no water up there and no way to haul it. We hike over to the canyon and hear the rushing waterfalls and creek below us – yet no water – we can get to – it’s such a steep drop and impossible to carry water from!! There’s a lovely wide area next to it and would be lovely to live there but no view except canyon walls. We’ll build a cabin there later – for fun! It’s a perfectly beautiful spot. I’ve never been down — just look down — later I’ll climb it!
We went up there knowing there was no water – and wondering what we’d do. Bill had dug several holes hoping a spring would emerge – but nothing at all!!
In back of the hut are several enormous piles of dirt and brush that Pollard shoved back when he cleared a place for the hut and guess what? The snow underneath is still there – insulated against the sun – all other snow is gone. Bill dug a tunnel into it and got snow there. I shuddered to think of using it but it’s clean. We have to hoard it and melt it and then close our eyes but it’s wet. I really hesitate to use it but Bill assures me it’s safe!! It’s slow and building a fire to cook on and melt snow on is slow. The children love it – Saturday night we had beans, hotdogs, cooked on our skewer sticks from California BBQ days and roasted marshmallows and cocoa (made from melted snow and evaporated milk and instant cocoa) – good – if you’re cold, thirsty and hungry.
Bill had to go back for the pack he left when I yelled and didn’t get back until midnight. It was still light enough out to eat and we were amazed to find out it was 12:00 and we didn’t know it. [words here destroyed by moisture on paper] – and still one month to go until shortest day of the year!! Bill was exhausted and said he smelled the camp fire way down mountain!
Then we went to bed – oh Mom, the mosquitoes I think had come in and stayed in folds of canvas – there were millions BZZ- like bombers coming from all directions at once. I couldn’t sleep all night. We had OFF which I put all over every hour but it didn’t help. We needed a spray and didn’t have one. I got up at 4:00. I couldn’t stand it. That morning poor Cindy’s face was swollen terribly from bites.
I woke up hating mosquitoes, hating the dirty, filthy Jamesway and hating the whole damned mess. I went outside to gather firewood – completely unafraid – I walked down to edge of drop and looked out – all others asleep and all peace and quiet. The sun hadn’t come up but it was still light outside – it was beautiful. The air smelled like a million flowers so clean, clear and fresh! It was the beginning of a beautiful day and the view below [Mildred ran out of paper and now wrote on the paper pad’s cover] was breathtaking. I stood there and looked around. I clasped my hands around me and thought – it will all be ours – this beautiful place and I said aloud, “Oh, dear God help us get our land – help us, help us!”
I gathered up firewood and reluctantly returned to chores at hand! Sharon and Bill were up and it was 5:00 A.M. We three went to the edge and looked and Bill’s eyes shone with pleasure as he saw my delight in the beauty below and all around.
Oh Mom, you too must see it – but how?
Then they were all up, awake and so happy to be on our land at last!!
Bill announced, “It’s a holiday. We’ll eat and see our land!” We ate bacon, fried eggs, coffee, cocoa and doughnuts – m-m- good.
Dishes could wait. I took pictures of it all. I’ll send you some and we left – oh Mother never will I forget that joyous, happy morning! We walked to our valley, a hidden valley between two hills. It has big, enormous spruce trees and many other trees. The girls played house under its branches – and mosquitoes and mud were all forgotten. They didn’t want to leave their play beneath the big sheltering branches.
BUT oh, so much more to see. We walked down to the spruce grove where I want to build our permanent home – our final home. Here Bill says, we’ll get the winds as it’s out in the open but who cares? Will have a view unsurpassed by anyone, a view of the ocean to the right and the mountains across the inlet. Before us we see the opposite mountains – and below the rivers and ponds. To the left we see the big jagged mountain and the bump where the canyon looks as if it closes but where it doesn’t – it’s a pass and where the park begins. I love that view as here the mountains come together.
Now isn’t that enough? But oh, no there’s more. More I tell you. Below us to the left is the creek and the waterfalls. Oh, such beauty and beyond it and up over the canyon is another spot just like ours – not taken. Oh, no they’re all below in the marsh too lazy to climb – or too wise. Which?
They’ve never seen the beauty we have and I tell Bill I don’t want them to or they’ll all want it for themselves.
In some ways I don’t want a decent road. I know it sounds crazy but Mother, you know everyone then will come and until we have patent I hardly dare them to see Our Hidden Valley – our name for our place and anyway – we need money to clear and get patent. Right?
Oh, I wish I could show you it all – everywhere you look you see a view.
Where our Jamesway sits is only temporary. Bill wanted it put in another place but they couldn’t get to it then because of the snow – now I’m glad. It will later be a barn and is in a flat cleared space we know we’ll never want to live in. Good.
Next summer we’ll move to the little warm sheltered valley I spoke of – then later to my spot!! See, we can’t give this place up. It’s beautiful and lovely beyond any words.
Poor Mrs. Pollard – she says, “You’ll only have the mountain across the river to stare at. I prefer to live in the valley.” And yet how I wish our place was so easy to get to.
Must close for now – next I’ll pick up here! Love, Mildred
Please mail right back or I’ll never do this again!
May 19, 1959 Tuesday
I’ll finish my last letter to you now – already it’s 10:30 P.M. and we just put the children to bed. Remember how light it is here and how mixed up one can get? – Well we’ve had lots to do and not enough time to do it.
The main reason I wanted to write right away is for fear you’d worry over my remarking Sharon was sick – she was and that’s how we happened to come to town and is better now.
* * * * * * Let’s see – where did I leave off? Oh yes, we had just had our nice morning’s return to work.
John was so anxious to chop wood for me and Mom he really does well. He’s no longer interested in toys – as such – he has really grown up! For his Birthday he wants a BB Gun and a Hatchet – Bill says no BB Gun but hatchet – yes! Bill has taught him well – safety rules and all – remember last year ‘the knife’, well he remembered!!
Anyways, he set to work chopping wood and I gave the Jamesway its first real housecleaning. Not much I can do. We have 4 camp stools up there, and sleeping bags, food and box of clothing, dishes etc. – all carried up! I aired the bags out and all and swept it out well.
Bill plans to put wall board up over the canvas and ply board over the flooring and then some partitions up. It has possibilities for sure but is a terrible mess now!
It rained late Sunday, all night it poured. Bill went down to the trailer for more things and brought back a can of insect spray. I went to town and there wasn’t one left. That night I put a blanket under me and an extra one over me. He gave me a sleeping pill left over and I slept. I felt ill all afternoon – nauseated and miserable.
Sharon had gone over to her bed late afternoon and gone to sleep. I was so surprised. Of course she’s over tired and all but when she wouldn’t wake up for dinner I became worried. She just slept on all night.
Oh that place was cold in the morning and so dismal. Of course we can’t keep the fire going all night and it seemed ages before it warmed up in the morning. Still raining and we were in the clouds.
A cloud hung over us and it was eerie and dismal!
Sharon woke up complaining of a bad sore throat and holding her throat. She wouldn’t eat or drink a bite. Then she started throwing up – even her aspirin. Oh Mom, I was scared because she’s seldom sick and never, never complains unless really sick. – and then always such a good little sport. Well, it kept on and on and I told Bill – she had to go to the doctor.
Of course I remembered the time she was so sick at Bockstahler’s cabin and had convulsions – remember? So we packed up (I hope the bears won’t break in). [During one winter we came up the mountain to find a valley homesteader, Barclay’s two bulls had ripped through the back canvas of the Jamesway.]
We were penniless and had all our food up there but I didn’t care – she had to go to doctor.
By then she was crying and saying over and over “My throat hurts” and then the dry heaves. Oh Mom, I love her so and I was so worried.
It was raining out – and of course that was all we needed.
Bill carried her in his arms down mountain. John carried a load of food (which we’d carried up but were perishable items) and I carried a load of dirty clothes and books – and school papers and Linda carried the baby kitten! She and Cindy take turns with it.
We got to trailer and changed clothes – they were packed with mud – horrible, horrible damn mud!
We got in town and checked in at Chitty’s [motel] where I started my last letter to you.
Sharon is fine now – two days later – good bed, warmth and loving care and medicine and she’s herself again!
We are all clean and scrubbed. I ironed for first time in a month and a half and got it all done! So accomplished that much.
Jeep acting terrible again so has been in garage for two days – gasket another $50.00. Honestly will it ever end?
Well, at least we could cook here and there was a $20.00 Halliday [plastic products she sold] check in mail to tide us over to payday which is tomorrow.
We’ll get the Jeep tomorrow and a cook stove ($12.45) and head home.
Tomorrow is Bill’s Birthday [33rd] so I’ll bake a cake here and we’ll eat dinner here afternoon. Then I’ll make sandwiches which we’ll eat picnic style and then – UGH – back up that damn mountain!! But we’ll make it, I swear.
Mrs. Bockstahler wants me to help out at shop again only I can’t get in myself! – – – – – – [‘In’ meaning into town from the mountain.]
Mrs. Pottle said Shirley received your lovely gift and asked me all kinds of pointed questions about homestead. “We never see you any more. How do you keep clean? Must you walk in?” etc. etc.
I never see anyone!!! __________________________
*Bill bought a gun – well we’ll know tomorrow. 10% down – darn it, but we must have it. It’s a Winchester Telescope Light – and he’s real pleased as he says it will be ideal for him being left handed and they are hard to get. _________________________
I’ll feel better now – we have to have one but my we’re having troubles making ends meet! ________________________
Well, I must close and get dishes done. Do keep well – I love you and miss you very much.
I hope and pray we’re doing the right thing.
I’ll never rest easy until we have title and all is straightened out.
I feel for Bill and so wish we didn’t owe a penny to anyone.
Do write soon and don’t forget to mail the letters back. Love, Me.
P.S. I bought some flower seeds today – sweet peas, Shasta daisies and double nasturtiums. MISS YOU and say Hi to C and C. I love you all!!
May 20, 1959 Wednesday
You will be overcome I know getting three letters at one – oh no, Bill mailed two this morning on his way to the dentist – so you’ll get this the next day.
We’re still at the motel and feel fine now – rested and clean. Well, not too rested each night we’ve stayed up until 1:00 A.M. figuring and figuring.
1. We can’t live on homestead without water – we must have means to carry in our supplies.
2. Oh Mother, Bill is right it all boils down to the fact that we must have a tractor and now.
I see it now and I know Bill is right. It’s hard to get tractor work done and expensive. Living back where we do we have to pay operator’s ‘traveling expenses’ so we owe at least two hours in and two hours out at $12.00 to $17.00 an hour! Impossible! We have to have:
1. present road improved so as to
2. get our trailer up now.
(People are suspicious because it isn’t up – heaven knows how hard we’ve tried)
3. a tractor to haul all our household possessions up
4. and to carry water up
5. we could then clear twenty acres this summer and get title in December, 1959.
6. Then this winter we can drive Jeep to where trailer is now and bring us and our supplies up in the tractor.
7. Also and a big item – we can then plow our own road and get out next winter.
We have to have one!!
If we had it now we could get right to work.
*Bill says without it we’ll be forced to give the homestead up.
I say ‘no, no, no’ but really even if he can get a tractor up there and fix our present road and haul our trailer up we’ll still have to walk in and pay again for clearing etc. That’s why everyone back there now has a tractor and they don’t need it as we do living on the mountain because they can drive to their place.
Mother do you see –?
Tractors (small ones) are $5,000 up new. Shocking I know. Bill has spotted a used one for $3,000, $1,100 down and $100 per month. We don’t have the down payment nor can we swing $100 more now on our payments. In fact, we can’t take care of present payments as they are now.
So where does that leave us?
Sure we can pull out.
Sell our trailer.
Sell our Jeep and truck
And then our payments will be reduced $25.00, $125.00, $45.00
Almost $200 a month – then as Bill says ‘we can afford to homestead’ ha ha! Seriously though, those are our big bills now and ‘proving up on our place’.
Once we get title we’ll live rent free. Jeep has cost us through our nose. $400 in two months in repairs – hurts us terribly! But in four months it will be paid for and truck too will soon be paid for and trailer is only $25.00 a month with low balance of $350.00.
Oh Mom, it looks bleak I admit. I’m willing not to go anywhere – we haven’t even been to a movie since January 1st New Years. Oh Mother, Bill and I haven’t been out alone – January, February, March, April, May — five months now. Imagine. Not even to a friend’s house – we haven’t any friends here – we’re all alone. I’m with the children constantly.
We don’t spend any extra money — except shoes and necessities.
But still this summer I’d cut lower and lower. Bill can now get a moose and a caribou – we can have a garden – Oh Mom, it’s what I want – to live up there.
I must admit – we don’t miss TV – we don’t miss electricity (except refrigeration and bathroom) and I love the country and it’s so peaceful alone! I love not having neighbors all alone – and we’re closer to the children this way than ever before.
I can’t give it up – I’ll walk first but Bill won’t. If only we – had a creek –
And of course we must be plowed out this winter.
I’m seriously considering having a day care center in fall so children can go to school. ?? It holds many sides – remember I considered it before – but Bill is right and says we must only count on his income – he’s so right.
Mom, Bill wants me to ask Charlie for a business loan of $1,500 payable at $50.00 per month with high interest. He wrote the telegram today and I wouldn’t let him send it.
He says even if we got $1,100 from the Altadena house – which with lawyer and all we won’t – we couldn’t handle $100 a month payments. If we could spend that $1000 to lower our present payments then we could afford tractor but no down payment! Not funny.
I’ll gladly live in Jamesway and trailer until we get squared away but we must be able to get to our land without walking.
He also suggested I ask Cahill Sr. for a loan and I won’t. What do you think? [Referring to Mildred’s father. Her parents were bitterly divorced in 1931 when Mildred was five.]
We owe you so much money I’m ashamed.
I swear to you, Mom we’ll pay it all back. We’re young and we can wait for nice house etc. I want to pay you back before we build or anything.
You’ll need it after you give up [your] house and [we] will be ready then to pay it.
Oh Mom, I’m desperate. You alone know how far we’ve come and all we’ve gone through.
We don’t even have an outhouse – we have to go on a pot and empty it in the woods. It’s awful!
We must build a ‘you know what house’ – we can buy used lumber cheap at [military] base sale we found out yesterday. $25.00 worth for 50¢
Now we’ll even have our gun and the Jamesway is up.
How I wish you could come up next winter and teach our children.
When will your house be gone? Would you like to come and be with us then?
If we can make it and get our title in December then we’ll be down in January. If I teach them at home then we could stay there for one or two months if you wanted us – or even until spring – I could stay and bring you back for next summer!
Oh, wonderful plans – but if we lose our homestead all my dreams and hopes arelost – Oh Mom, I know it means too much to Bill and I but it does.
We wouldn’t even want a ‘Turn-a-gain by the Sea’ house in Anchorage or one of the beautiful new homes being erected close to the new Methodist University. Oh yes, we would, if it were given to us we’d sell it and use the money for ‘our home’ – our land – our dream.
Mom, if only you had seen it you’d understand. It’s so beautiful and precious I’m afraid we’ll lose it and will never have an easy moment until we have title to it – and the sooner the better before someone else tries to get it!
We have to clear ten acres this summer and cultivate it.
If we don’t clear all required twenty then we must reclear, replant the first ten next year and the new ten.
Mom – there’s hay – wild oats from last year up there now – enough for horses and cows – all summer.
Oh Mom, Oh Mom you must see that place.
I wish – foolishly of course you could come up all summer and together we’d write.
No neighbors – no interference – such beauty for inspiration and peace that can’t be found in today’s civilization. We’d only go out once a week. Could you? Would you? Health-wise could you? If we bought a tractor, could you?
You could have bedroom in trailer and we’d all sleep in Jamesway. Trailer is cozy and warm and will connect to hut – if we can get it [trailer] up.
Oh Mother – Maybe I’ll call you today – yes, I must and will.
Love, Mildred, ‘Your Homesteading Daughter’ – or am I?
P.S. If only I could go on “Queen for a Day’ and explain it all to them. How we worked to get here – the struggles we’ve had homesteading and how badly we need a small tractor and why – and how much it all means to us –
Explain our road problems and all.
I’m sure I’d win and they’d give us a tractor!
Oh Mom – it dawned on me now – could you? Would you? People can go on the show for someone else or can they? Yes – I remember them doing it – we’d get the tractor and you would get all else – the wardrobe, maybe even a trip to Alaska to us!
Oh Mom, let’s, let’s, let’s!
Ask Charlie – he could help?
Stress we need it now?
Oh no, we couldn’t – it would be like charity and the others would hate us!
I just don’t know!
May 23, 1959 Saturday evening
As I wrote you at this time of evening – around 5:00 P.M. — I’m reminded of that song I love “When you come to the end of a perfect day and sit alone with your thoughts….”
It has been a perfect afternoon – it’s always nice as soon as we come home to our land – it will be ours now! — We’ll be able to clear and cultivate our required twenty acres now and be done!!
I hated to ask Charlie for that $1,000 but as I explained in the letter we need that tractor now!! – Or it won’t pay for itself.
We didn’t get back to the trailer [at the bottom of the mountain] last night until 10:00. It had been a hectic day and children were asleep so we slept on top of beds – never undressed – and left at 6:00 A.M. for mountain.
All noise in the world now and it doesn’t bother us – or our neighbors and oh, what fun the children have had. I don’t think I’ve ever known them to have so much fun together.
The whole world, it seems, is their playground.
The trees are houses and the branches are bedrooms.
The berries – all harmless – and not eaten anyways – are good and the dirt as cakes.
Bird nests are found and both Cindy and John are now proud owners of one a piece – so cherished – and so educational. Each nest so perfect and a product of such painstaking loving labor by little birds and each now the start of a nature collection.
The enormous hill behind our Jamesway is a fort. There’s a big mound of dirt on the top where Butner’s road goes. John has ‘HIS FORT’ there. This afternoon I wished Charlie Jr. was here to play with John – could he come up with you for several weeks this summer? – He’d love it, so would John and so would we.
I gave permission to the girls that for once, seeing he hasn’t any boys to play with, that they could be ‘enemies.’ So Sharon and Cindy were enemies and Linda a war nurse.
They bang-banged! And all– and we didn’t mind a bit – in fact we enjoy it here when we know it can’t bother anyone.
We all ate lunch outdoors. You know I never have liked hotdogs and as a rule the children aren’t keen on them – but cooked outdoors – they’re SUPERB! We roast them on skewers and pull them off with a folded piece of bread – as a roll – and put picallili on them and so good!
As dessert twice now we’ve had snow — crystally snow – mixed up with Kool Aid and sugar – we eat it as ice cream – it tastes delicious, cool and refreshing and economical. We all love it and the children will be heartbroken when our snow is gone in our dirt mound.
Of course we could have this ‘delicacy’ during the winter but I’m sure none of us could ever appreciate it as much then as on today – a hot, sunny day – and no water to drink.
So as you can see it’s been a nice day.
I’ve taken many more pictures today.
We climbed up behind John’s fort to an enormous rock Bill used to tell us about when he used to come here alone last year. He always used to eat his lunch there and view the fabulous scenery. He used to tell us about it – he should have raved about it and yet nobody could imagine such beauty. You must see it! And YOU, Mother must, this summer – PLEASE SOMEHOW come and write!!! PLEASE
Once Bill brought us home little pieces of this rock – and today we were all on it. I took pictures to send you!
I’m sorry to say that although this afternoon was extremely happy – this morning was miserable!
Mom, I swear that unless I really have to – I will not go down that mountain again, until we have some vehicle to bring us back up again. I really never thought I’d get here today and even our usually peppy children were tired.
We haven’t had a decent night’s rest in ages and I have slept in my Levis for weeks!! — (I do change clothes in-between but it’s too cold here to sleep in a nightgown until we can get a decent heater in here and plywood on the floors to cover up the four inch cracks in thefloor and so on!) [The Jamesway floor pieces were 4′ x 8′ rough plywood boxes placed end to end for the width of the floor of each section.]
Anyways, yesterday we went down mountain without our breakfast because we had to get up at 6:00 anyways as we had to get to Government Hill early morning to get children’s report cards before 10:00 – and if we’d eaten here we would have had to (1) build a fire to take chill off Jamesway (2) melt snow for water (3) leave dirty dishes etc. so we decided to get up and eat in town (we can get breakfast for $4.00 for six people). But we didn’t eat until noon – then had one hamburger for dinner.
This morning we climbed the mountain without breakfast – we were tired and hungry and I felt like a rag doll.
I tried to carry a pack and couldn’t. Bill had to go back and get it! I could hardly bring myself. We were all so relieved to get here and know that there’s no more school and no plastics until June.
I had one party yesterday afternoon – it was very small. I have two more in June and hope I’ll close out then!
Meanwhile I’m going to stay here as much as I can. —-
I haven’t cried in ages but honestly I was so weak and tired and so were the children and we were all at each other’s necks. – I just sat down in the woods and cried and cried. Then I started climbing minus a pack!
When we got here – as always it was worth it.
I cooked pancakes and then John said, “Com’on out Mom and relax!” (Sounded like Charlie to you.) I did and went to sleep – and slept – or rather dozed on and off. The SUN felt glorious for first time hot on my back.
Every once in a while I’d open my eyes and take in the scenery and doze some more. I don’t know when I’ve ever relaxed so completely – and enjoyed our place so much. The children were playing so nicely and we were all happy and glad to be here on such a day.
It’s been a real spring day – birds singing and such a marvelous sweet fragrance.
I told Bill I hope to live to be 90 and never leave here. (I want to be buried here!) [Mildred’s ashes were spread there in 2003.]
I told him I even yearn to be a child again and live here – such a kingdom – reminds me of our first home a hundred times over!! Oh, how you’ll adore it here!!
If you want you can retire here and write! I mean it! — We both do!! REALLY.
As Bill says – in giving our children an opportunity to grow and develop here – we’re giving them something far greater than money could buy and I agree wholeheartedly.
How different we feel here on our own land –!! How wonderful!
Love, Mildred —
Write me soon. Tomorrow we work over our finances – can you manage without money from us now?
$1,000 to Charlie
Lawyer – any for you? Damn it BUT Mom
P.S. Mom the telephone call was my last – it cost $40.00 – isn’t that awful? I hated to hang up. We’ll have to see you all next year for sure BUT Mom I so want YOU to come this summer – can you? [Bill’s monthly salary was $600.]
Tell Charlie one million thanks — I couldn’t walk much longer – the tractor is a must. Supplies. Road building. Building materials. Snow plowing, etc.
We have done right I know it!
Here there never will be any ‘living up to the Jones’. We’ll WAIT for THINGS – all I want is patent on land. Our vehicles will soon be paid for and so will Seaboard Finance — then just Beneficial and Tractor.
No rent [underlined 10 times]
No payment for land [underlined 5 times] –
II. I’d cry if it would help but it wouldn’t.
May 31, 1959 Sunday 1:00 A.M.
(our usual bedtime now and often times our dinnertime –oh, we’re all mixed up)
I was so upset and shocked to read your recent letter and find out you’d been sick – and oh Mom, I never knew. You didn’t tell me. Was it flu? – Asiatic flu? Or WHAT that struck you so suddenly? Oh that I’d been there to nurse you – Oh Mom, so many of our plans are planned around YOU.
I always say, “And here we’ll build Mom’s summer house. Oh, no here so she can see the ocean too.” — Oh Mom, please, please take care of yourself for all of our sakes!
We want YOU to come to us if at all possible in August or July – no trailer idea. Thanks anyways! We’re HERE to stay – and once we build a cabin, our trailer is yours!
No more now – everyone is asleep! Poor darling children still on the hard, cold floor in sleeping bags!
I have a cot now that Bill insisted on carrying up on his back if I promised to use it. They all have sleeping bags.
We still don’t have any chairs or a table – it’s so darned hard. Luckily we’ve had gorgeous summer weather. We all go outdoors all day and are sun burned!
Oh, so much to write but will have to wait until next letter as I always get into such involved letters when I try to write it all to you. I just wish you were here so I could tell you all BUT you couldn’t walk that mountain. It’s TERRIBLE. I hate to go down, knowing we must come back up!
We had a pretty decent (ha, ha) but a kind of foot path on the side of the (ha, ha) road, and now it too is gone!
For three days now or four we’ve had Tuck’s [tractor] operator working on the mess. He’s so persistent and determined to see it through he even worked all day yesterday and all day today! He’s trying to build up the road with fallen trees and dirt and build ditches on the side for the water to drain off. The road is better in places but impassable in others.
Bill can’t even drive our tractor [Oliver CO-3] over it. Tonight though he brought me a can of water up VIA the tractor through the woods. (He hauled one six [five] gallon can up on his back as the snow bank is gone and no water). Oh, how precious it is! (now)
Tonight at 11:00 Tuck’s tractor got here for first time!! We shouted a welcome and hooray. The kids were so excited! The man swears he’ll see us through. He says everyone in the valley has told him our road is impossible. He says it’s worst he’s ever seen. Oh Mom, such muck. Bill sank his tractor in it clear to the seat and he himself sank to his waist.
But this man is really good and got Bill out. Pollard sank too! —
Oh and such mosquitoes in that marsh! —
Up here it’s heaven really heaven and how I love it and how happy the children are here if we only had a road and I want our patent – everyone below now is fussing over land and so many newcomers coming in here looking!
We got papers from lawyer on the [sale of the Altadena] house Saturday and will get signed and return.
Must close! Love, Love, Love, Mildred. P.S. More soon. I love you! XXXX
June 1, 1959 Monday
I am BORED AND FRUSTRATED. I don’t mind so much being way up here on the mountain as I do not having anything to do. I have kept busy all day but so much I’ll have to do in the future and I’m so helpless.
All I have is one broom and one rake – I did make a flower garden with child’s rake set but so wish for all of our things!!
Today I splurged and washed my hair with precious water and then not enough left to drink all day and we’re all so thirsty!
It’s about 6:00 P.M. and I know Bill won’t get home until 8:00 or 9:00 – and got up at 5:00 A.M. – he’s exhausted continually and never rests a minute. He sure is SLIM now – and muscular too!!
Today I’d like lots of water! But Oh, how I wanted today to have water for baths and to wash this filthy Jamesway and to do a big wash!!
I so wanted to cook. We’ve lived out of cans for weeks and weeks. UGH! I always did hate canned food. No oven or stove – everyone is so darned good about it all BUT I am frustrated!
Little Sharon just brought over a birdie to me!! For days she has been trying to catch a birdie and I keep telling her they’re wild! She was over playing with Linda in a tree and found this birdie. – Oh Mom, it was dead and she carried it to me so happily – thought it was asleep!!
We put it in a box just now and buried it and said a prayer and I explained it to her! She’s so dear and sweet and loving! We all gathered Alaskan wild flowers and put them over its grave and John got his fort cross to put on it.
When we’re settled I must get her a birdie. Did Pretty Birdie die? You never mention it any more. I wouldn’t mind. I know it could happen and it’s yours.
I dislike writing in pencil so adieu for now and Love! ME.
June 1, 1959 Monday – Later 9:45 P.M.
Bill didn’t get home until 8:30. I should have figured that – but that’s best yet, sometimes we’ve gotten home around 12:00 or 1:00 A.M. He used to get back to trailer around 6:45 so of course, would be much later [here].
Oh, such a long, long day! I want THINGS to do – so much to be done and here I sit!
Oh – these Damn mosquitoes – we’re all bitten to pieces and I hate the spray smell but we have to spray heavily – usually three or four times a night and then more all over us. For some reason the pesky things come out around 5:00 – they’re around you but oh they’re out in hoards now! * * * * *
Bill ate supper and just left to drive tractor about a quarter mile straight across to where he and John walked one day to look for water – and found a spring – closer than creek. Sure hope he can dig some out.
I was hoping to ‘go out’ tomorrow but he says road is very bad now in spots where man is working on it. He’s dug deep ditches three and four feet on sides of road – I wanted to go to Bockstahler’s van where our things are still stored. Someone broke in several weeks ago but didn’t take anything and we haven’t been back since to check it.
More later – I haven’t done dishes in two days, lack of water, and scribbled this while water heating. Love, Me.
P.S. Oh, so good when Bill gets home. How marvelous to have water, milk and little things like this pen brought here to us on the mountain.
Never thought Bill would arrive home with a pack full of groceries on his back, driving a tractor!
June 2, 1959 Tuesday
*Notes – overview: We gave notice at the Panoramic View Apartments on Government Hill on February 1, 1959 to move out of the apartment. We bought a twenty six foot trailer and had it moved back into the Eagle River Valley to the end of the Jeep road in February and contracted to have it taken up the mountain.
Troubles, troubles, troubles.
The tractor broke down. Seven times of new snow – frozen mud, etc.
April 1, 1959 we moved into the trailer and camped there one mile from our homestead at the bottom of the first steep hill on Pollard’s land, waiting for the trailer to be able to be moved up the mountain. Kept working on road. Had to walk to homestead and terrible road had turned into a creek.
No hope of trailer getting up. Little hope left for hut so planned as last resort to buy a tent as we needed to be up there by the 7th of May.
I got very ill with an ear infection and was almost hospitalized. It was impossible for us to walk. I was weak and in terrible pain.
Bill continued to take children into school on Government Hill during April but had to take them out of school two weeks early [in mid-May] so we could move up the mountain.
Road has been impassable to even the tractor. It completely washed out and mud is knee deep. Bill finally got the Jamesway hut up there. It thawed more and we couldn’t get anything up there we couldn’t carry as we climbed the mountain.
Weekend of the 3rd of May, Jeep broken down and was in the garage in town. I stayed at a motel and was still in terrible pain and taking medicine. I drove Bill to the end of Eagle River Road and he ‘walked in’ seven miles to set up the hut and stayed over the weekend while I was sick and the Jeep was broken. This is when he set up residency while I was at the motel sick with four small children.
On May 9th through the 11th I dragged up the mountain with sleeping bags, still weak and sick, and slept on the floor and cooked outdoors. Bill carried up the Yukon stove on his back. I felt better and carried up the camp stove.
On June 2, 1959 I had been here on the mountain with the children for one week continually and plan to reside here permanently. The trailer is still not up here, but Bill bought a tractor to bring supplies in and get some real work done on the road. As I am writing this, including Bill’s time on the mountain while I was sick, we have three weeks of residency here.
June 2, 1959 Tuesday 10:30 P.M.
Oh, how my moods change here – a while ago, well, hours ago now I was so happy! I was out gathering wood and heard a tractor coming – my, such excitement – the children all came out (it’s been showery all day) and we ran to greet it. It was our operator Tuck. He had come to inform me that he would help Bill bring my first load of household things up when Bill got home from work.
He came in our very humble dwelling and I gave him a welcome hot cup of coffee. It was 6:00 P.M. then and he figured he’d just make it back down the mountain in time to meet Bill.
I’ve had quite a time keeping these good, good children amused all day – we’d been making paper hats out of newspapers and playing ‘tit-tat-toe’ – so I asked him if John could go – He’s so nice, just like a jolly Santa Claus and readily agreed! It had stopped raining and so John happily climbed in two-wheel trailer behind the tractor and they took off down mountain.
My, how our wood stove hungrily devours wood – but how warm it keeps the Jamesway – today, being rainy, I’ve kept it burning all day. It takes a lot of wood fetching and we all help.
7:00 P.M. I went out to get more wood. It was sprinkling ever so lightly but the woods and grass smell ever so sweet and the wildflowers are blooming about – enormous blue flowers looking all the world like lilacs [They were lupine.], blue bells etc.
I heard the tractor returning! Oh, how pleased I was – I gathered ten armloads of wood – the house must be cozy and warm when they returned damp and cold.
I peeled my last potatoes, opened string beans and fixed hamburger –
The [Coleman] lamp must be lit – oh, how temperamental it has been lately and how dull. It doesn’t light up this big Jamesway the way it did the tiny trailer. I cleaned the glass inside and out. Bill tells me to ‘pump’ it up plenty and hold my finger over the hole. Oh, bright welcome light – then gradually it dimmed and went out! More fuel – I get the filter and go out and fill it up – pump, pump and on it goes. (But gosh, I’m frightened of it and it seems to know it.)
Up until now I’ve stubbornly and flatly refused to light our Coleman Camp Stove. I’ve heard of them exploding and only will use it when Bill is home. Consequently I have to haul ever so much more wood and it takes forever to cook on the Yukon stove. Today, I asked Bill to show me how and did cook the children’s breakfast on it and how quickly it heats dish water.
But tonight I couldn’t get it to work and just lost courage.
All the wood burned up – it started pouring outside and Oh Mom, the tractor had seemed so close and it stopped completely.
I got more wood – all wet – the potatoes and meat won’t cook. I try the stove again, it won’t light and I’d cry if it would help but it wouldn’t.
So I fix the three patient girls a half peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some fruit punch and they go to bed in their sleeping bags on the floor because Bill was bringing the wash—in their clothes – and I wonder?
Oh Mom – they’re angels – as I put them to bed and tuck them in and hear their prayers – Cindy says, “Mommy I added a special prayer tonight for our homestead.” It’s their dream too – oh such darlings – we cannot fail them. It’s theirs as much as ours.
Now it’s close to 11:00 P.M. – no Bill, no John – no tractor, no trailer – what happened? Are they stuck in the damned mud – or was the trailer too loaded down and the road couldn’t hold up?
Then why not walk home? Poor darling John was so thrilled to go – he gets so tired of being with three girls and me all the time and now this.
I gave him soup and crackers at 5:00 – all of them – but no dinner and cold and wet and mosquito bitten.
Oh Mom, Mom. Mom!!!
I’m sitting here close to lantern for light and swatting mosquitoes that smell the half-cooked food and are attracted by the warmth, the lantern light and me! I must have killed two dozen since I started this! (My spray is gone!)
You know me – I’ve never been patient and it’s all I’ve had to be since one year ago when we started all this!! — And all I can do now is sit, wait and wonder and hear the purr of the lantern and the drip, drop of the rain! – And the wood is all gone too!
11:15 P.M. – Still not home. I am worried! Oh Mother remember when Bill used to be half an hour late sometimes on the L.A. Freeway and I’d call you because I feared an accident?
Oh Mom, who do I call now? It’s still raining and pitch black outside – I went out a while ago to listen – listen. I’ve listened so much I can almost imagine the ‘putt putt’ sound. A minute ago I was certain I heard it – but opened the tiny window and only heard the rushing river below.
If it wasn’t for leaving the three girls I’d start down the road looking for them.
I’m worried especially about John. It just dawned on me that I don’t really know that man at all. I never would have let him go but they were on their way to meet Bill.
Bill said he might stop to help Carr fix the road below his place where the creek flooded over but I figured he wouldn’t in the rain –
And I did hear a tractor, but that was at 7:00 and now it’s 11:20.
And Smokey she’s been gone all day. She’s never once left us here alone before today. She used to follow us down to the trailer when we all out together and wait there for us – or rather come bounding down the road to meet us at the sound of the Jeep.
Why, I’ve been lost without her and worried over her.
She may have followed Bill but why today and why didn’t she return?!
She never lets John out of her sight a minute and we all adore her and depend on her too.
Oh Mom, I’m scared!
Where are they all?
Here is Bill’s gun hanging on the wall but I don’t even know how to load it!
I’ve been sitting here praying. I want us to be together.
I’ve been so alone lately – yet always I’ve kept the children together.
I miss John – where is he? He’ll have pneumonia for sure and he’s so thin anyways.
Oh God, Oh God – help us!
—- I didn’t mail these today for fear of worrying you and I wanted to write you a note telling you all was OK now. They got home at 12:30 A.M., rain soaked, muddy and tired. I cried with relief.
We think ‘our operator’ had been drinking – he had it in his head to bring our big trailer up the mountain last night! Imagine!!
Oh, I’ll tell you all details later but suffice to say for now – he worked on road after leaving here with Pollard’s big tractor and broke down a lot of his own good work. Left Bill waiting at the trailer for two hours – he had planned to bring two-wheel trailer of household things up after work – by the time operator got back and told Bill he guessed he couldn’t “bring your trailer up tonight” – imagine, in rain, at night! Crazy!
I hadn’t packed anything. He had put wheels back on trailer in afternoon and luckily he didn’t pull it up as it was – my kerosene lamp on table – dishes out – honestly! Then Bill packed two-wheel trailer and started up but got stuck where ‘operator’ had messed up the road and spent his [no word here] there. (The tractor I had heard had been ‘operator’ on road while Bill waited at trailer and he’d left here saying he was going right down.) Finally Bill started tractor – battery ran down and they walked home.
Man had emptied two-wheel trailer up here of all things Bill had in it in case of rain to cover up furniture so our good card table and two matching chairs were out in rain all night. This morning NO WOOD, NO CLEAN CLOTHES, NO WATER. Bill didn’t get to bed until 1:00 A.M. and up at 4:00 – walked to tractor, luckily it started – unloaded mess in hut – I gave him breakfast and he left.
The rain had come in last night and John and Cindy woke up in wet sleeping bags!! All their clothing was wet and hut so cold. I changed them – thankful for clean clothes – fed everyone and put them back to sleep – it was only 7:00 A.M. – they slept until noon.
I washed dishes, slept and tidied hut and at 10:00 went back to bed and slept too!
Crazy US –
Then got up and sponge bathed, changed clothes and fixed lunch. It’s still raining so I had to keep them in hut all day!! Thank goodness for table and two chairs and water and tractor and Bill – a wonderful husband and father! Hope I get a letter from you tonight. Love, Mildred
June 5, 1959 Friday
My how time is flying.
“Oh, What a Beautiful Morning – oh what a beautiful day!” And oh, how blessed I feel this morning to be here on our gorgeous homestead instead of in the crowded, stifled Government Hill apartments I passed yesterday. Oh, Mom, I do love it here. I just wish you were here with us!!!
Please do plan to come in August if at all possible – or better still July – while it’s still warm!
Poor Bill. Before yesterday he came home the night before last so happy because he had been able to drive the tractor all the way up from the trailer without stopping! It only took half an hour!! That seems so short to us now but just think, on L.A. freeways it took half an hour from L.A. to Pasadena ONLY – never mind – it’s worth it and Bill’s face shone with happiness. Then the next night he came home so miserable and pulled out his pay voucher and for sure I thought he’d been fired – he’s been out so much and late so much – my heart fell! But to him it was almost as bad – his pay, Oh Mom, now of all times, was $250 short!! A catastrophe for sure.
He had kept track of every day he’d been out and thought all was fine BUT in his tiredness and all so mixed up he had entirely forgotten two weeks taken in February and he lost pay for recent time taken off to try so hard to get us straightened out up here! Oh, Mom, I never felt so sorry for him – even when he has come in dirty, wet and tired. Well, not a thing we can do about it but eat beans and pay interest only this month.
We had one rainy day this week and I couldn’t let the children out all day – nothing seemed nice then – but oh, today – how I wish you were here to share it with me.
I’m writing this letter to you while sitting on the cot outside in the sun. There’s a very slight wind and the leaves and trees are rustling and the sound of it and the creek and the river sounds the waves of an ocean!
Oh Mom, I hardly dare to love this place so and love it I do. I am in love with it – just as Bill was. It’s Shangri la and I must share it with you each and every summer. – Now Mom, if we get title this winter and we must and I’ll never rest until we do!! THEN now, I am serious – plan your summers here!! Or at least one entire month every summer – but there’s so much room here you could have a little place all your own! Now you write and answer me!! No fancy trailer idea – no, no, no – a small log house or a tiny twenty six foot trailer like ours – because after all, you live outdoors all summer here!!
Every time I look around I wish to run and shout with glee – oh, such beauty – I’ll never want again for anything. — I’ll wait and wait and wait only this land, only this land!!! I love it, I love it, I love it – our homestead and will live here for ever and ever and ever!!
I sound love sick and I am! Speaking of love do you realize soon we will have been married ten years? – Bill wanted us to go out somewhere fancy but we’re not going to spend one penny. I secretly plan a BBQ steak celebration here on our place, but I must admit it would be such fun to get dressed up in my white dress you gave me before I left California – we haven’t been out together since January – New Year’s Eve and that is not right.
I never seem to see Bill and now we don’t even sleep in the same bed and of course, have no privacy. The children go to bed the same time we do. Several nights ago he brought their beds up – two sleep in one bed – one on each end in sleeping bags but at least they’re finally off the floor!
Each little thing that comes up here is so wonderful!!! Our sixteen by eighteen hut now looks crowded! [Each section was four feet long with two floor sections equaling sixteen feet across, five sections made the Jamesway twenty feet long, not eighteen.] See? Now it’s getting to be quite comfortable and very nice for now once we get the trailer up [sic].
Mom, Mom please come, please please come up. Not to sightsee or visit like last year – Just to be with us — each day and month is so precious. Couldn’t you get someone to look after things? – Oh Mom, if we get the trailer up soon and leave the bed in there or you could sleep in the front room and it’s so warm and cozy and private! Would you come for the rest of the summer now that we have the tractor?
You could write here and I’ll spend the entire summer relaxing, organizing and writing!! Please, we could pay your fare back late August – please a one way ticket – oh Now, now, now. Answer me now!!!!!
The road in to Pollard’s is pretty good now – it’s fixed up, still bumpy but dried up!!
By the way Mrs. Bockstahler says you could have their cabin where we stayed last summer. I said ‘no’ too alone in case you needed someone! Mrs. Pottle said for me to invite you to stay with them!
Now I’m serious. Come now – take the summer off – could you close the house up for the summer? Your food here would be free, no rent and you could pay your flight up and we’d pay it back! Then I bet by devoting all your time to writing up here all summer then we’d both make enough to pay for your rent.
Last night’s paper said Holiday Life, Outdoor Life etc. are all coming up with Alaska articles next month!! Answer NOW!!!!!
Tell Charlie again and again we think of him and appreciate the temporary loan! Without it we’d be walking and even hauling water [by foot] –!! Well, it’s 6:30 now – I keep doing things and each time I sit down in the yard I’ve added notes. ** YOUR LAST LETTER WAS ONE OF THE SWEETEST I’VE EVER RECEIVED. Your marvelous understanding and such sweet thoughts. Mother, thank YOU for being YOU. I too, am grateful for C. and C. – so very grateful. I am so happy to know they are there. BUT I want you some time summer and all summer if possible!! Much, much Love and take care of yourself! Love, US ALL
My hand got tired so I took a while to rest! I just took my plants off a shelf Bill made in the tree and put them in the garden for more sun. Each child has several plants in old cans. They tore off the labels, punched holes in the bottom and put small rocks one third of the way up. Today we were all thrilled to see that they have sprouted and truly what’s more thrilling than to plant a seed and watch it grow? I love gardens and can hardly wait until we’ve cleared and cultivated our land – I can just picture our place ‘someday’. Sometimes it startles me to imagine it all so clearly and look out and see just wilderness. But it will happen!
Yesterday, I read in the Saturday Evening Post about ‘pony clubs’ being started all over and by next summer our two youngest will have ponies – and we will all have horses. If you have a chance read the article.
We just had a picnic lunch. I cleaned up the Jamesway and honestly with wildflowers in vases (we can afford the luxury of giving them drinks now that we can haul water!) and our few things in there – except the canvas is so dirty and the floor so ugly! Oh well, all in good time – I get overly anxious.
Anyway then I made a pan of fudge (We had half for dessert and then we were walking around and I looked back and Smokey had eaten the other half!!! — Oh, I was mad.) We had Kool Aid, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cookies. I packed a basket and took a blanket and we took off.
Believe me, we’re still not brave enough to go too far but we did go out-of-sight of the hut to a grove of birch and spruce. Hum – sniffed so nice. The wildflowers are all in full bloom now and so beautiful. After lunch the kids climbed some of the sturdier birch trees – it was a change and fun!
** Well, it’s 5:00 now and I better finish the letter. I wanted to tell you all about yesterday! I had to go to town to sign [Altadena] house papers with Bill and take care of some plastic business. I finally let the other dealer take the bookings for June and July and I am through except for a few more packages to deliver when they come.
We had to get up at 4:00 A.M. and bundle up very warm. The top mountain peaks were covered with snow – it snowed there while it rained here – the valley was a bed of clouds and more clouds hovered over surrounding mountains. We can watch them float by below us. We were going to town and rode in the two-wheel trailer behind the tractor, putt, putt down the hill to the Jeep to get there. One thing we can really appreciate the scenery like that. We all piled in and the marvelous tractor took off.
Oh, how I wish you could be with us. It’s so darned hard to describe it all to you. The first part of the road is fine – the first mud hole is hardly recognizable – but then we leave the road and travel in the ditch – just ride enough, barely for the tractor – that ‘the operator’ made for the water to go down. The dirt is piled up on the side of us, some places five feet high and in the ditch the water races down – dripping and draining continually from the sides of the bank. The water plus the tractor have got the ditch down to the gravel and rocks so it’s more like a creek bed, so amazing to me the tractor putt putts right along in the water!!
As we progress we come back up to the high road – (other places he will come back and fix the high places into a road when it dries out) — and then on the side of us the water runs in a narrow ditch and looks just like a creek with water falls BUT oh Mother, there it isn’t running in the road any longer!
No doubt about it he has already accomplished the impossible!
Oh, we looked funny when we got to town – me with boots, Levis etc. and all of us looking – well just like homesteaders!! I hadn’t been ‘out’ for a week and hadn’t had a real bath since then! We took showers at the women’s dormitory on the base – and all got dressed up in summer cottons! My, we felt good!!!
I had packed our things in a suitcase but had forgotten soap, shower cap and bobby pins and comb! I couldn’t do a thing until I had them and even refused to go to breakfast until we were cleaned up. I went over to the shopping center on Government Hill and he opened up the store early (he was cleaning it) and I purchased the things. Oh, I hated to be seen that way. Once you’re in the city it’s just like Pasadena or any city and you feel out of place not dressed up.
Anyways later I found my shower cap and wanted a refund of 39¢ on one I’d bought so returned it and I was sure he’d never recognize me BUT he did!
We had so much to do, wash to be done, packages at P.O. and to be delivered, all done just in time to meet Bill at 5:00. I’ll be so glad when we can just go in for fun.
(One or two more times and I’ll be done.) [Is she referring to delivering plastics?] Anyways I’m so glad we can take FREE showers there and it’s so clean and nice. Remember when Bill first came here and stayed at ‘the barracks’? Well, that is what this is, only it’s the women’s barracks! They all work during the day and so nobody cares whether or not we used the facilities. So that problem is solved!
On the way home, I stopped to see Mrs. Bockstahler a minute. She’s so nice. She has really fixed up the shop and has added fur things, Eskimo and native art, ivory etc. Of course, all very nice! They decided to keep the front house for themselves. He broke down and bought a couch and with the furniture he makes it surely looks nice. She’s so pleased and happy. They’ve rented the back house to a woman and her nineteen year old daughter on a year’s lease. Mrs. Bockstahler’s aunt is coming up for a month and then his father will be up for the rest of the summer. She wants me to work part-time and I’d love to but just don’t see how it’s possible!! She remarked, “You don’t look like a homesteader.” — I told her why!
After we left her we turned homeward. It’s getting hard to know what to buy for food. We’re all sick and tired of canned meat. Yesterday in town I bought an enormous sack of potatoes at a roadside stand for $1.50 and some nice fresh vegetables – including our first corn on the cob six for $1.00. I bought some corned beef to go with cabbage I bought (like buying a dress to go with earrings (ha ha)) but I didn’t dare buy any more meat without refrigeration.
We changed clothes at the foot of our road and once again climbed into the two-wheel trailer behind the tractor. Oh, to think we didn’t even need the clumsy boots and all we were wearing. We chugged to the top. Each bad hill I thought – “Oh how hard that one is to make” and so on we rocked. Cindy and Sharon pleaded, “Let’s rest Mommy” – and how my heart had ached!
We rode in our convertible to the top of the Mountain – oh, what bliss. Only it doesn’t convert in case of rain, snow and all. But oh, so marvelous.
I had trailer half loaded with boxes and today had wonderful time [rest of letter is missing]
June 7, 1959 Sunday
*Notes: I love Our Homestead when the sun shines, the doors are open and I see the beauty we are surrounded by. The windows are so tiny that we can’t see the view at all from inside the hut and anyways we can’t see out the windows at all! I’ve washed the inside and outside of them until they shine but the glasses are double paned, close together with fine screen in between and are filthy inside – years of accumulated dust and grit. [I think the windows were aged and discolored heavy plastic, not glass.]
Bill plans to put large windows in each end when he fixes the hut. Other times when I dislike this so heartily is when we arrive home late, tired and dirty and have left early in the morning. It’s untidy and cold and so are we – nothing feels good then and I hate this place.
The Ford is in the garage. Bill was taking it in to see about selling it and on the way it broke down. Garage man said will cost about $100.00 – now what? We can’t afford to sell it or keep it!! Always something!
June 8, 1959 Monday
*Notes: The children were playing ‘Giant Steps’ outside around 7:00 and I heard them yell, “A moose, a moose!” Goodness, it sounded like a stampede!
I jumped out (and I mean out) our back door (or is it the front, who knows?) of our hut. It’s about four feet higher off the ground than the other end due to sloping ground and no steps there yet, so I repeat, I jumped OUT and ran to the side. By then all four children were inside the other door and then I saw the moose galloping down our hill and past me into the woods. Smokey ran behind it and would not come as we yelled at her. No wonder the children had beat it so fast. It looked like the moose was running toward them with the dog after it.
*Later Notes: “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” Today is the perfect beautiful day. And our dwelling IS HUMBLE but it’s HOME. Even the children now remark, “Mommy this place sure is beginning to look home-like.” Well, I’m trying. Now that I have my stove, a table and six chairs and our beds here it’s getting downright crowded. I asked Bill today to bring me a chest and our shelves from storage if he gets a chance.
We have boxes piled on boxes and more boxes piled on those and invariably I always want one item from the bottom box (naturally).
At times I really HATE living in this hut. Those times are on rainy days when none of us could get out and we didn’t have our things here. Then all I could see was the splintery cracked floor with the wide gaps between, (that first rainy day we lost a ruler, a pen and a nickel down a crack) and the miserable dirty, splotchy canvas. How I’d like to try to wash it but there’s so much of it and it’s beyond that and Bill will soon put insulation and wall board over it!
Anyways HE just ‘balled me out’ for using hauled water on my seeds but as I explained to him, they really mean a lot to me now that I’m here all of the time. Every day we all hurry outside right away to see what has come up!! I hope we have lots of colorful blooms all over. Yesterday I scattered poppy seeds around the driveway and the sides of my rock garden!
It’s my plants and the candles and mats and ‘little touches’ inside, I know, that make the hut homey! Once, I tucked a flower vase inside my pack those first days we were up here. The children picked wildflowers for it and I hesitantly gave them water – very hesitantly, because even then our snow pile was small BUT oh, how gratifying to see the colorful blooms on the table!
Bill said, “Now, so far I haven’t minded packing things on my back but now look at that vase.” I stopped him and told him I had carried that and he couldn’t say a thing. He really appreciates it but I see his point too. How very precious water is.
I sponge bathed the children last night in one basin of water! But four times over again ‘adds up’. First their face, neck, chest and arms – in that order. Then they stand in the basin and I finish. It helps and then we go to town once a week for a shower.
Oh, if I only had water I could fill our big round tin bath tub full for them. Bill will have to dig a well. Oh, so much to be done and from past experience now we know how fast the summer flies by!
As Bill said last night he could spend every day working on this place to ‘prove up’ from now until December!! We wonder sometimes how we’ll ever get it all done! The road will need so many more hours of work after it dries out before the trailer can come up the mountain!
We see now how long and laborious it is to operate the tractor, especially after Bill’s long full day working in town! Last night it was 12:30 again before we got to bed. Then up again at 4:45! Bill has lost 35 pounds since we got up here! [In one month.] I’ll do my part and keep the home happy andrelaxed and now that I have my stove I can bake for him again.
He’s earning every acre of this land we love – we all are.
Speaking of humble home his last remark before going to sleep was, “Funny, how things change. Three years ago I sat at my desk at lunch time and sketched shapes for our planned patio in Glendora. Remember what a time we had deciding where it should be and how it would look best? Well, today I spent my lunch hour sketching shapes for our ‘privy house’.” Yes times have changed – (and oh, how we need one) – (a privy, I mean).
June 9, 1959 Tuesday
Just a real ‘quickie’ to tell you all is well!
We brought up three enormous loads of stuff over the weekend I’ve been sorting it all out this week and planting my vegetable garden. Bill tractored (?) it over and then I had to turn it all over by hand – quite a job for one who isn’t used to it BUT oh, how very satisfying.
You know Mom, I’ve yet to taste better tomatoes than those you and Charlie used to grow!!
My problem will be water – now, I almost wish for (only) a few showers!
Bill dug me up quite a space – I hope I can manage it. So far I’ve planted: one rock garden with wild flowers, daisies and poppies, one round garden with nasturtiums, and one more with sweet peas and nasturtiums, one more with poppies and nasturtiums.
My vegetable garden so far (I’ll plant more later so they won’t all mature at one time!) has one row radishes, one row carrots, two rows peas, one row cauliflower, one bed potatoes (hope I planted them right side up – you know, I am a real green thumb as I wasn’t sure if you planted potato seeds. As you probably know you don’t, you cut them in several sections as long as there is an eye in each.)
I still have oodles more seeds – cabbage, lettuce etc.
Oh Mom, our soil seems marvelous to me and absolutely no rocks at all!
Our fields are so green now and the wildflowers are everywhere!
Tonight there was a party at Leo Frelin’s house for Art Jess – Bill’s boss, who’s leaving. He’s returning to school to get his master’s degree.
Bill really wanted to go but we couldn’t see how. It won’t end until late and then the long return trip would be too much and we can’t afford to stay in town.
Hope I get a letter from you today. Bill didn’t stop at box on way home last night as was with Pollard. I miss my mail!! Golly, I’d love to talk with you and hash over everything.
I’m getting concerned about fall — whether to send for correspondence courses or not. I want them to go to school but how? I’m afraid the trip in cold winter would be too long and hours too early and late etc. etc. Then it would be expensive to have them cared for before and after school.
Poor Cindy! How long she has looked forward to school and how anxious she is to learn.
Golly, I’m with them all the time and really dread the thought of teaching them at home but what else?
Yes, we will have earned our 160 acres when our time is up. [Residency ‘proving up’ time of seven months.]
Bill doesn’t get home until 8:00 or 8:30 – it’s now 8:15 and he isn’t home yet. During summer it’s still light but imagine the winter? I shudder to think of it. As he was saying last night – how will he ever get everything done that he has to do in a few short months.
Then the house (hut) has to be fixed – a foundation, insulation and wall board. Road fixed so trailer can get up and then it hauled and foundation built and some repairs made.
Land to be cleared and cultivated. Last night after dinner he worked at this one hour and it’s not an easy task. Will have comparatively few trees to cut but many high bushes and still a job for Bill to do after getting up at 5:00 – getting home at 8:00 – working at a full time job and all.
Thank goodness we don’t have a high stand of timber. When we were in California and talked of “homesteading” I pictured a forest. Our place here is so different – wide open spaces – a green valley with a few birch and spruce. There are many old, dead trees and places where we’ll clear out lots of dead trees and cottonwoods and aspen but I like it this way. There’s so much sunshine for the children and the land here has a marvelous happy, peaceful feeling!
Well, it is 8:15 – we’re completely out of water – oh, how precious it has become — so I can’t get dinner.
Often times the kids go to bed at 11:00 or 12:00. It’s still light out and easier on us all in one room. We turn in shortly after them. They’re so tired they go right to sleep. Unless we go to town – which is very seldom now – I let them sleep until 10:00 A.M. or later. It makes the day shorter and the sun shines late, late, late!
I miss you and love you. Hope you are well – Write soon, Love, Mildred and children — John got his letter and check. Will have him write you.
June 10, 1959 Wednesday
*Notes: Another beautiful day! It’s warm and sunny but big fluffy white clouds are floating by. The sky is the bluest blue and there’s a slight wind.
As I write, the door of our hut is open and the hill behind us is gorgeous. It’s covered with quantities of assorted blue flowers and the entire hill has a blue cast to it from the distance. There are tiny white flowers and dandelions adding a bright note. It’s so beautiful and natural. Nobody can duplicate Mother Nature.
These days we’re all out-of-doors every minute. We even eat most of our meals outside. Now, we have our gardens to attend, also. Every few minutes I stop to gaze around me and feast my eyes on the beauty surrounding us. The green valley against the mountains, with the snow still on the tops is truly a sight and in the valley below the river sparkles bright as it wends its way in and out of the valley carving a new path every year. I can see islands in places where the river has bypassed but in time the powerful river will come through these also.
How we all appreciate the greenery, flowers and soil here in Alaska after living in a world of white snow for so long – the transformation is amazing!
In California I tired of the monotony of the landscape but never, never here in Alaska. All too soon, autumn will be here and then winter again BUT even then winter varies! Hoar frost is one thing, fresh snow is something else and always we look forward to spring, never really minding the snow and missing it a bit at first when it disappears. (Really, I only mind the MUD!)
I love Alaska – every season – all year round – “I love Alaska.”
6:30 P.M. – My, what a beautiful day. I’ve never before seen such perfect weather. As I write the door of the hut is open and the hill behind is gorgeous – all covered with the blue bells and blue flowers!
I’ve been gathering wood and my hands and arms are so tired my hand won’t write right.
It’s so satisfying to me to see things shaping up so nicely!! I’ve worked all day on putting things in place in the hut. Oh, such downright luxury to have shelves (previous toy shelves Bill made) to put dishes, pots and pans on, and a chest of drawers with five whole drawers to put underwear in!!
To me, I even gain tremendous satisfaction from gathering firewood – available in enormous quantity now that Bill’s been clearing – and storing it in neat piles beneath the end of the hut! “What a saving!” I keep thinking.
Every day I grow to love this homestead of ours more and more.
Well, I am going to take a few minutes to wash up before Bill comes home – I am a mess!!
Evening (Rather 11:00 P.M.): Here comes Bill home on the tractor after clearing land. For the last hour I’ve been up helping (?) — well trying to – dragging away bushes and mostly gathering firewood. It really is showing. Last night he was discouraged and didn’t think one hour a day helped but it does! Just like ‘some knitting’ every day or ‘some gardening’ – all added together – and some long work – and completion! And tonight it does show!!!
I hurried home to make some cocoa for him! It’s chilly out tonight but clear and nice! How warm and cozy the hut seems as I come in from out-of-doors and the crackly of a wood fire even in a closed place is cheery. I lit the candles so as not to bother the children but nothing seems to waken them now. (AND there was a time that the slightest change wakened them. Oh, how we have all changed!) Even the candles are cozy – NOW for Bill’s cocoa.
It has been a pleasant day!
June 11, 1959 Thursday – Our 10th Wedding Anniversary!
Whoever would have imagined – ten years ago – that I’d be living atop a mountain in Alaska homesteading? Certainly not me!!!
You know me and how I always like to have Birthdays etc. so nice. I haven’t been in town for over a week and haven’t even a card – and no water today and couldn’t even bathe and shampoo my hair.
As soon as Bill gets home I’m going to bathe and clean up and clean the children and put them to bed so at least Bill and I can have a RIP ROARING game of Pinochle.
Well, now really – even that seems nice as I hardly ever see Bill anymore at all!
Last night Bill was so miserable because we weren’t going out anywhere and I assured him that this homestead was the nicest present he could give me.
We had another lovely day today. I read the Writers Magazine over and over – and clippings you sent, thanks. I’m just NOT in a writing mood — closest I ever came was in the log house – a time will come – but not when children are home – I need some QUIET TIME – too many interruptions with all four children at home.
Today I was so very lonely to see you and C. and C. I would love to drive down this summer but can’t spend the money and Bill says he won’t have any vacation in January! I refuse to fly alone with the children again. Well, will see what this next month will bring.
Right now, Bill needs me here to see he eats and gets rest etc. He’s carrying a terrific load!! – Much more physical than I am! — Mine, I guess, is more mental!!
I’m sure I do get all your letters and did receive the letter about the Jeep – we don’t have any money to invest but admit it’s very interesting. Any old Jeep up here sells for $400 UP!!
Last night on his way home Bill saw a big black bear down near Donnelley’s about four miles from here. He crossed the road in front of the Jeep! Don’t worry I keep the children very close to the hut here!
Sweet of Charlie to try that – thanks for telling me. Tell him that the tractor was ‘a must’ for us – the road is gradually drying up but even after all that road work (bill came to $610) we couldn’t have gotten in without a tractor. We would have had to move OUT. Thanks, thanks, thanks! No word from lawyer [on sale of their Altadena house] but shouldn’t be too long now.
Pollard told Bill last night that Butners have given up idea of homesteading. All they did was buy an old small trailer and have Pollard haul it in. It’s been sitting down near ours – unoccupied since April! I guess Butner is being transferred – that and the fact we never got ours up discouraged them. Really, I’m very glad. I don’t want anyone above us – or at least, not them!
I had wondered about it. The trailer, if fixed up, would have been nice for you but Pollard bought it from him for $100 – and will bring stuff out for Butner that’s still there since fire. Of course Pollard did haul trailer in and was never paid for it. Neither have we – only $50 – we still owe him $125.00 I suppose, even though he still hasn’t brought our trailer up. Maybe he can still do it next month.
I sure want it now that bears are around to put food in!!
We went up to Butners’ last weekend – sad sight to see remains of trailer and all. Did I write you about it?
One mile above us – you can see it when you come – do you want to file on it now? The road is there and high and dry back and forth to our place!
A WORLD ALL OF OUR OWN!!
Write back!! Well, better close and get to potatoes baking – oh, so good to have my GAS OVEN now!! Bill’s coming! Love, ten years Married Mildred
June 11, 1959 Thursday
*Notes: Our 10th Wedding Anniversary. For the very life of me I couldn’t enjoy today. In the first place, we didn’t have any water. Enough said!!! Miserable day – miserable anniversary. I try not to care but sentimental ME I do care TERRIBLY but I have no choice but to make the best of it.
III. Oh, so very lonesome!
June 13, 1959 Saturday [letter from Mildred’s mother]
Have so much that I want to say these days – that I may be writing frequently. I love your letters which let me “share” your ventures on the homestead. I am so torn between my desire to go up for a visit and the wisdom of remaining here and putting money toward your project instead. I go “around and around” in my thoughts.
Like you and Bill it seems that your chief problems are road; water; and the school plans for next year.
Ever since your last letter of today came talking about the school problem and Cindy’s great desire to go to school – I have kept it in my thoughts all day. As you know I find that the first four grades are horribly important foundation for all the higher grades in school. Due to the educational situations and the conditions under which you will live, if in the Jamesway, it would be very hard for you to take care of three [There were four of us!] of them alone and teach them too. How I wish I could afford to take the next year off to live in Anchorage and help until you and Bill get the house situation really under way. But right now my conclusions seem to be that children must go to that good school in Anchorage next year. [Grandmother Bea, always the educator.]
No matter what anyone says about you being a “sissy” over living in town in the winter, I beg you to consider it. I will pay $100 a month toward a Government Hill apartment, where you’ll be cozy and warm and well taken care of from now until school closes next spring. When feasible you can “weekend” on the homestead! It’s better and wiser than pay for each child – tuition – and having them worn out and weary going back and forth, as well as Bill and yourself on the daily grind in [can’t read word] inadequate housing against mid-winter storms.
So with this in mind I’ve been thinking that we could think about this. Talk it over with Bill. Get permission for tutoring until you get title in November. Then going there into school for winter months. Oh please, Mil. You know that their good sound foundation is very, very vital to their whole lives. Also, they need the social contacts with school affairs, children, scouts, and John’s choir etc. You do too.
Then I could help with workbooks preparing them for your tutoring in the fall months. Could this be done?
If this is done, Bill would not have to worry and work so desperately hard on the house-building until next spring. He could put efforts and money on road; piping water and clearing land.
Oh Mil if I could go up we’d be able to can and make jellies etc. I might even be able to stay September – if it would help you. Right now I want to dream about going up in August –
My heart is so much in this with you and Bill. You’ve done so well so far. It’s a tremendous undertaking – but it must not deplete Bill so much physically that he gets ill or loses his job through weariness and inability to keep his mind on his career-job. Right? You’ll be able to save so much in rent and expenses for those seven months, that you’ll get settled up a little, if the machines will only behave.
Having money is all important on those machines. If you are in apartment during cold months you’d save on laundry and on children’s morale. They should be in school in town somehow or other.
When you get settled with water, house (even small), toilets etc. it will be different. Also, schools will have to be closer if settlers going in all have children. But your children need stimulation and competition with children of their own mental calibers. See what I mean? You see if you and Bill offer me a corner for a wee cabin for summers – let me do my share in the winter – apartment – plan for the children. We’ll make the money writing this summer I know!! But if not we’ll find a way.
With this trip as a goal (if possible and you don’t need the money I’d spend in fares) I plan to teach, tutor etc. here through month of July at least! Then we’ll see if I could get up in August – or middle of August to middle of September or something.
I will not accept plane fare from you and Bill. Don’t think of it! I’ll have enough for a two-way fare or I won’t go! You and Bill can pay back anything you owe me – in the future – after essentials on homestead are all taken care of slowly but surely and well. Each step must be good and sound not makeshift, or you’ll lose out in end by doing it over again. Bill will have job enough to get Jamesway water proofed and safe for storing your things for winter. By having apartment you can take something from storage to apartment and some to homestead.
The more I think of it, this is the most practical, sensible plan. As you say there are only a few months to work in. In this plan you would not feel the pressure and dread of being unprepared for this winter. It would be “too much” to do all at once, I think. It would have been so very different if you hadn’t been handicapped by that old road and the car troubles. But all those trials have provided you with the “conflicts” as well as “thrills” which Bert Anderson says is so very necessary for good writing. You can write articles, or lectures, and put them all together afterwards in book form. Oh I must get up so you can have a little time to yourself for writing.
Which takes me to the other explanation for waiting until August. I am to begin next week POSITIVELY typing off the lectures, and having interviews again with Bert, so we’ll have everything ready for you to use – you can begin next week – at least one or so hours, I hope. We must earn the money when I see the BOOBS who do. Oh me, oh my! What’s the matter with me? Lack of confidence and lack of regular hours for writing day in and day out – like any job!
You made yourself appear on time for those plastic parties. You write so well, dear. You should have been one of first to get Alaska articles off. Don’t do as I did – fill drawers with materials.
John’s drawing of the homestead, I love. I’ll write and tell him so. Also Cindy’s, and Linda’s, and even dear Sharon’s letter to me. I adore you all. You never have reason to think you don’t get oodles and oodles of my whole-hearted love, day in and out, for you and yours!
I, too, hold visions of good future prospects for the homestead, if you take it easy and slowly. I simply sang in my heart at the report of your gardens and the children’s plantings. That picture of [can’t read word] on a tractor on that Eve Post cover was on the table when Dr. Norwood has been to treat me. I told him it was for John and about him. He replied and said: “It’s a great life for a boy.” And it is, Mil, if he works hard on his books too. Let him do the workbooks in the sunshine – and he’ll love them – the girls too.
Oh how I wish I had the money to run up now – but I want to get some of this summer money and get writing in line. Probably best I haven’t got money because I’d just enjoy myself loafing, perhaps.
Oh, Mil, your Shangri la or Hidden Valley sounds wonderful! I wouldn’t mind ending up on Jeep – or sleeping on blanket on floor. You know that. Remember us sleeping in car on way out to save money? [Referring to cross country trips they made before Mildred married.] It was worth it, dear. I’m often sorry you had to be dragged across country because of me, but it must have been part of Destiny for us all. I shall be deeply humble and grateful if you have found the place which makes you and Bill content. You know me – anywhere is OK if I’m well and with my family. Watch the health for all of you.
I’m so happy that you’ll have fresh vegetables this summer. I bet your tomatoes will be better than any we ever grew. The soil must be rich. If I get there, I’ll weed and weed for you!
And the flowers and the trees. It sounds wonderful. We must hold it for you. As soon as I get my rent together and pay Norwood $75, I’ll pay two payments on car – I’ll count the shekels to see if I can fly up. Have even wondered if I could drive. Why not if those other women did? What say you?
I don’t want you to give up the Ford station wagon unless you have to. You need it for town. You cannot look like homesteaders like McCrary. I just loved hearing about your quick-change acts at the motels and at Army base showers. Loved hearing Mrs. Bockstahler wonder. Others will wonder too. Don’t tell how you manage it all. Let them wonder, and I hope marvel, if you could get on for a while without garage bills.
Have the Butners, Pollards etc. had as much hard luck with their cars as you have had?
Three cheers for the little old fellow who has helped put the road in shape so that you can go up and down with the Jeep. Think of draining the water. Just fine work. How do you pay him? Have you paid him some already? What do the others think who say it was all impossible? Oh how can I bear to sit here just waiting to know the progress – and wanting to be there? Just as you all can do it – that’s the way. Determination to remain and stack up a few $$.
Yet quite desperate after reading about your plantings, the blue skies, the trees etc. and determined that I’d rent the house furnished for summer, or take one or two convalescents in for a month. I may at that – would pay the rent – and testing and tutoring would be “gravy” as they say.
Please be honest and tell me all your reactions to the various plans – and which seem wisest to you – Are they impossible or impractical? Also tell me about your payments on various machines now that Bill’s check was short last time. Can you make out, or do you need a payment to save the trailer or tractor or Jeep? I’d send another check now – but want to wait and check payments with Pacific, due 9th, and see if they paid as they did last month. If they did not I’ll pay it. Don’t worry about Pacific – they have promised to let me know if money does not come in so I can pay. Of course they’ll be nice – to themselves. [She is referring to medical bills.]
Thank God for the Jeep and tractor and that Bill is able to get some boxes of stuff to you. What a celebration if he ever gets the trailer up to you! Happy day.
Children are wonderful. Let them sleep lots and lots and make up what they lost that will put flesh on Johnny too. Did I suggest a goat – for goat’s milk? Very nutritious and people get used to it and love it. Like yogurt –
Want you to keep up your courage and not be lonely. The Pep Kid will try to visit, if she can!
What film does your camera take? Perhaps Charlie could buy it cheaper down here. Lots of pictures and short descriptive paragraphs of your homestead problems would go over, I know. You are so right. Time is flying. Here it is the 13th. John’s birthday in two more days. A year has gone by since I was there. In many ways it seems like two years.
Caltech called me yesterday and told me definitely I can remain until April – maybe until June. Since three of their boys will return (my underclassmen one has been here four years will return for his master’s degree) I think I should hold house unless I do something more lucrative and fascinating. Could run house [for room rentals] anyhow. College opens about September 20th, I think. Right? Then after next spring I’ll be able to plan ahead again, I hope.
Am feeling much more like myself. Have worked hard right through the whole month, much to Charlie’s disgust. But now I am glad because my work did not get too far behind. It is awful when it does. I am taking those vitamins I believe they do it. Will send more if you say you’ll take them.
Remember the old striped umbrella on pole that could fold up and be carried anywhere. We used to have it in yard in Melrose and took to beaches too? I saw them in Sears last year for about $15. Would you like one? It would be good and colorful and give shady attractive spot for you all during day outside. Also mark my words Bockstahler’s or someone from Eagle River crowd will have to appear this summer to look you over. So let’s give them an inexpensive eyeful – OK?
Can Bill hire a man to pipe water up there from creek below? Or how much to drill a well? That is absolutely important and will save lugging water for washing etc. Good for gardens too. You need water all summer! Please tell me about this. Watch springs that might carry typhoid from mosquitoes etc. etc.
How I rave, as if you didn’t know! Forgive and overlook it!
Sorry you and Bill could not go to that office farewell party. If I ever get up to baby sit you two must get out a little. At that you know C. and C. never go anywhere together – either – always have children and take them wherever they go. Don’t even go to Byron’s-Elsie’s but about once in six weeks. Play cards with the neighbor couple over the fence. They bought a croquet set. Play that or ping-pong or work in garden after dinner. C. has to work about two nights a week. And weeks go so fast. [Letter ends here with no closing page.]
June 13, 1959 Saturday
*Notes: Bill ‘tractored’ out a deep hole and I throw cans in there and later he’ll cover it over.
I’m so glad I have the Yukon stove. It’s been a blessing from beginning to end. Now it is just enough to take the ‘chill’ off the evening and early morning and I burn our papers as they accumulate! It was a mess at Bockstahler’s cabin not knowing how to dispose of trash and having to make endless trips to the dump. This way we can keep our beautiful homestead neat and clean – not one bit of ‘trash’ will blight the natural loveliness of our heavenly place!!!
Perhaps this winter we can get a ‘portable fireplace’. We will have lots of wood to burn and it too helps clean up the place and rids us of debris and it’s so economical and so cheerful!! I really am amazed at how much heat our little stove gives off and how cheery the crackling fire is even if we can’t see it!!
June 14, 1959 Sunday
*Notes: (Our Marvelous Tractor. We certainly never could have stayed here without it!!) [Long after I left home in 1969 Bill sold the tractor and felt so badly he bought it back.]
We decided to celebrate John’s Birthday today. We’re so ‘poor’ right now and I really wonder how we’ll make it until Wednesday. But Yesterday I bought ‘hotdogs’ for a roast and potato salad and corn would go well with that and then I took my last pennies – literally – for sugar and a cake mix and two 10¢ birthday cards. So will have it today and fast until Wednesday.
Anyways it’s more fun in the afternoon before the mosquitoes come out and Bill gets home so late now!
We are going to add $5.00 to Grandma’s gift money and let him decide his own gift for the first time. Last year we gave him a fishing rod set – still new and never been used. It has been in storage and we got it out so it’s just like a new present. Also his archery set, another last year’s present, has been put away all summer so he feels fine about the whole thing. We have to cut every corner now!
* * Having no refrigeration it was our first birthday without ice cream! John has taken a sudden liking for lemon pudding so I made a layer cake and put lemon pudding between the layers and a circle of it on top with a candy heart (that I save from year to year) in the middle and his nine candles around the circle with white frosting on top. He loved it and it was pretty. I had an enormous dish of lemon pudding left over for him.
Bill had been gone all morning and most of the afternoon. He had to repair the Jeep and bring up another load from the trailer. He really loaded it too – and oh, how very nice the redwood furniture looks here. Even if ‘our hut’ is pretty awful the out-of-doors more than makes up for it and now we can live outdoors this summer for sure.
I am so glad we chose redwood in California instead of aluminum. It’s so fitting and looks very much at home here!! I bet we will really enjoy it here. No need for privacy fences here and to remember California – we had put up an eight foot fence there and still never really enjoyed our yard there. [At their new tract house in Glendora they sold when they moved north.]
When Bill returned he told me Pollards were coming up with their tractor to get Butner’s things, but he couldn’t get by the rock creek bed on our road and they walked up. They were our first company! We showed them the place and had coffee and they left – on foot! We put a cheerful yellow cloth on our table and I put a huge bouquet of Alaskan wildflowers on the table and strewed balloons all over the table.
[In spite of all my efforts to completely forgive Mother for her abuse of me, I find myself angry that never once in all Mildred’s writings does she ever mention my birthday. There were no thrilled celebrations of my birth as there were for all of my other siblings every year. How did I feel about this unfairness, this injustice when I was a child? Could I afford to even notice?]
We used our California BBQ, and my it was all delicious and such a setting. How can one describe how we felt – celebrating our son’s ninth Birthday on our Alaskan Homestead. John was ever so happy to know his was the first Birthday to be celebrated here!! (Darn it I took pictures but forgot slides!)
* * John’s cake was delicious and we all enjoyed every ‘morsel’ of it as it’s the very first cake I’ve baked since coming to our mountain top – (as now have a stove) BUT I’ve lost so much weight that I don’t want to gain it all back. I’d really like to keep out of the habit of baking all the time. In the apartment last winter I felt so heavy and clumsy and even a size 18 got too tight and now a 16 is loose!! All the hikes up the mountain and heavy work and skipping meals have done some good. But really, although we all loved the cake none of us wanted seconds. We are just not used to sweets now and it seemed very sweet – too sweet! So I hope I can resist temptation and not bake too many ‘goodies’ now that I have a stove again.
Bill and I were laughing at the memory of me in California where the Helms Baker used to ‘toot-toot’ and I’d run! (The bills were high too.) My, that seems like another world now.
June 15, 1959 Monday
*Notes: How dreadful. Smoke from forest fires in the Chugiak Mountains in the back of Fort Richardson firing range and from Kenai forest fires have drifted through our peaceful valley. It sends shivers down my spine to smell that smoke! The mountain range across the river from us is completely obliterated and so is Cook Inlet beyond to the right (reminds us of California smog).
Later: Bill says they’ve sent the Army and fire fighters out and now the fires are under control.
Bill cleared land again until 12:15 A.M. I sponge bathed the children, did the dishes and went outside to watch him. I was amazed it was that time and it was so light outside – like 5:00 in the afternoon in California.
Darling Bill fell into bed dead to the world. I pray he won’t get sick through all this!! Tonight he cleared directly in front of the hut, leaving the only two trees. As odd as they are they’re trees and shade! My beautiful birch in the center and back a ways will certainly stand out now. We will cut down the sick trees and improve the standing ones. So many trees can’t grow right because they are so over-crowded by bushes and other trees.
My beautiful birch is being killed by two spruce growing so close to it and the spruce are only half-trees and over-crowded, too. Yet how I hate to cut any down. They are all so pretty!
June 16, 1959 Tuesday
*Notes: Thank God the smoke is almost all gone! It is 1:00 P.M. today and I just can’t bear to go inside. I got up at 5:00 and went outdoors as soon as Bill left for work after a hearty breakfast.
Such beauty – it truly overwhelms me and I hope I never get used to it. Everything looked so different out front this morning and so much nicer with all those prickly bushes cut away. The children will have so much more room to run and I feel so much better being able to see around. Although we don’t have many trees, the grass is three feet high and the bushes and berry bushes are becoming jungle like and cut out the view and my sense of being able to see ‘out’ for animals.
So much to do in and out, yet on a day like this – well, I’ve been out all day. I took a little water to do a hand wash, wishing for more water so I could do it all and save money. Then the children woke up and they dressed and they ate out-doors. We’ve all been out ever since.
I dug up another third of my garden, greatly encouraged to see everything coming up I planted so far. Today I planted two rows of lettuce and cabbages. Still have beets and more potatoes to plant. Then in a week or so I’ll start another garden for a later crop.
I made a little path through the garden with a rock border and planted nasturtiums along the path. I ‘cultivated’ the radishes and watered them. They’re already one inch high and I planted them two weeks ago!! The peas have sprouted already and the carrots came up today!! I could spend all day on the flowers and vegetables, but then I have so much to do.
I am no longer bored or lonely. I love it here as always but now feel better to have things to do. It’s really HOME now – strange, true, but HOME. This is where we will live forever – I hope!!
Later, I took Bill’s big ax and chopped down all the bush and dead branches. I had never used an ax before and it was heavy but satisfactory to see how much better it looked. Tomorrow I’ll enclose both trees with a wide rock wall, which I’ll fill in with dirt and plant flowers around it. The soil here must be good. Everything is growing by leaps and bounds!
I ache to get a horse and a cow and enclose the big grassy area in behind my garden for them.
My days are full, full, full.
Must go inside and fix things up and unpack more boxes but oh, this hot, hot SUN feels SO GOOD!!!
Our Children Are So Fortunate. What a marvelous time the children are having. They have most all their toys now and lots of room to play in. Bill set up their tent we bought for them in California. It’s like new and such a delight to them now. Right this moment they’re playing ‘homesteading’ and arguing about ‘land rights’. I enjoy being outdoors so much with them and listening to their play.
Playing Homesteading June 1959
[Is it unforgiving of me that I won’t publish any of the pictures of children playing outside on this day because I am not, as usual, in even one of them?]
June 18, 1959 Thursday evening late
Where does the time go? I’ve meant to write you all week but I get terribly frustrated because there’s so much I want to write and keep waiting until I have time to write a long letter but Bill has been bringing up load after load and I’ve been sorting etc. all week!
Tonight I’m trying to straighten out some last Halliday [plastics] mess to take care of in town tomorrow so must make this really a note and promise to get another off over weekend.
Really hate the bother of going to town tomorrow but must get showers, do wash etc.
No. We still can’t ride * up in the Jeep – how I wish we could. You seemed to think we can. We ride in two-wheel trailer hitched to back of tractor. It’s rough, bumpy and oh, so terribly dusty!! I hate it. Consequently, I don’t go out unless I have to – I do wish every once in a while to go out and visit but how? I always am covered with dust after one mile and Jeep is dirty and dusty too! Oh well, some day!
Golly you’re excited over Butners’ place and you know there’s nothing I’d like better than to have you up there – one mile away BUT oh Mom, it really, I’m afraid, is impossible. Yes. You would have to file in person on it and then mark land off – Bill could do it. But you not being a veteran would have to live there for fourteen months continuously and then only clear ten acres (instead of twenty like us) or live there seven months for three years and then residency can only be broken three times in one year — and clear twenty acres – ten in one year if so desired and repeat ten the next year. Comprehending? There’s no getting away from winter. Even with us we can’t escape winter months!
See it snows here in October and November is really bad – usually – of course it depends. But will have to winterize our place to stay here until November – as much as if it were for all winter. So I don’t want to leave. We’re having such a job getting settled and can’t bear the thought of ever doing it again. Only time will tell what we will do – come November.
As far as Butners’ place it isn’t much and is only a tiny valley and cottonwoods. All the rest is mountainside. Of course enough for you. But one mile of this mountain is a lot and supplies and all. Oh dear Mother I’m afraid it would be too much.
Settle for a cabin on our place. You can be on our level or above and privacy but no bother of land clearing etc.!! It’s all very hard and you mustn’t do it. At any rate I am planning on your coming in August. – Please — and will show you it then. Meanwhile rest and take care of yourself for us!!
I love you for your pioneering spirit – you’re truly a WONDER!!
John had a nice Happy Day. We celebrated it last Sunday with a hotdog roast and cake outdoors on our redwood set, which we finally got up!
Even Pollards couldn’t get their tractor up last Sunday – had promised Butner to get their gear out — and had to walk up to our place. Bill will take it out I guess this weekend. Pollard’s tractor was too wide!
We’re still having perfect desert weather. I am tanned – really brown. I can’t recognize myself! First time in my life and to think I got it in Alaska. I live outdoors – between jobs inside – Kids are fine. Tanned too. We put their play tent from California up and they have had lots of fun.
Bill clears land every night until 12:00 A.M. It’s light enough at midnight to weed my garden. It’s all up and I am thrilled to death. Each child now has a vegetable garden too!
Must close. I love you. Will see you in August. Wish Charlie Jr. could come with you!???
Love, Mildred. You mustn’t drive. Fly
June 22, 1959 Monday
Just a note to enclose with Sharon’s precious drawings. She loves to work with her pencil and paper and I think does very well. She especially loves to draw houses, people, and Humpty Dumpty and Jack-O-Lanterns – these she brings to me and says, “Doesn’t it scare you?” She always writes on her things in scribble lines very industriously and then reads it to me!!
I’ve been inside for three days – today they’ve been so good and sweet. Bill stayed home to help me. – He had a severe case of diarrhea Sunday and yet had promised to bring Pollard up with our tractor to bring down Butner’s things and went anyways. Oh, Sunday was ‘a peculiar day’! Bill spent all day on that and when finally got home he collapsed on the bed for first time – he never takes time to even sit any more – just go, go, go – I worry over him he’s so THIN now – but anyways – he’d no sooner gone to sleep then I heard a car. Now no car or Jeep has ever been up here since we moved back here. I felt like a desert person in search of water – oasis and all – only me, imagining cars – but sure enough it was a Jeep and Pollard driving it so proud to have been the first to make it. He had a couple – oh 45 or so – who had planned to homestead beyond Thomas and Land Office refused so he was to show them Butners’ place.
They stopped here and loved it!! She’s quite a character – one boy senior in high school. Both work on base. She kept saying, “What will you do in winter?” “Aren’t you afraid of bears?” – And Mom, I felt like a ‘real sourdough’ and old timer as I heard her talk.
They had an old dilapidated looking Jeep only paid $150.00 for so didn’t care whether hurt it or not. I sat in back – open with her and went up to Butner’s. Wanted to see it again. We thought he’d never make it and were laughing so hard but that old beat up Jeep got there!!
All the land is terrifically scenic on way up and many perfect spots for cabins but it’s all our land. You don’t get to Butners’ until you dead-end against mountains and drop off to creek. His was a tiny valley with hills on both sides and view of dead-end of mountains below. Pretty but gives me claustrophobia – which I have lately anyways. (I hate being shut up in this D – HUT!!)
Many bear droppings up there at Butner’s and it’s scary! I’d want you close to us on your visits not a half mile up there. I’d worry myself sick over you!!
You’ll see when you come. Anyways, her working and all I doubt if they’ll file on it and I bet Butner wants money back for his road. All of Butner’s land is really mountain – different than ours.
Well, then Bill not feeling well and all he went to bed at 10:00 for first time. I couldn’t sleep (I have terrible insomnia here – all six of us in one room and so light outside and so much on my mind). Anyways again I heard a motor. This time I was really flabbergasted. 10:00 visitors? I rushed to the door and sure enough it was Barbee. We got up and I was scared thinking maybe forest fire or something but no, just came for a visit. Now isn’t that something – a freeway no less and Bill didn’t think a Jeep could make it. As he says it’s too bad for one and Barbee was shocked at road but didn’t know we didn’t drive it. He’d been out horseback riding and when returned decided he’d stop up to see us – at least four miles of bad road.
Well, I made coffee and we had crackers and cheese. Thank goodness for my redwood furniture for visitors to sit on outdoors as I can’t bring them in with all four children asleep in one room.
He left shortly and we undressed and went back to bed.
Well, Bill tried to drive last night but too tough on our Jeep.
Bill stayed home Monday – still didn’t feel well.
I planted some more vegetables (really too late now and Oh Mom, tomatoes can’t be grown here except in hot house – nor can cucumbers or corn). It’s a shame! But thanks anyways.
Monday late we had rain – had our first real thunderstorm here in Alaska Saturday and rain! Torrents of rain.
I had stomach aches. Tuesday Bill returned to work and I felt weak and poor. John had stomach aches and Cindy poor darling, had RUNS all day! – and No bathroom. [I think many times we were sick due to food poisoning from lack of refrigeration.] You just can’t imagine how terrible and pouring rain outside and all our firewood wet. Terrible day. Poor Sharon was sickest and scared me so. She went every fifteen minutes and threw up even water at same time and then went into deep sleep. I don’t know what I would have done without John and Linda. They helped me get meals and read stories to Cindy and poor Linda even helped me gather wood and empty ‘potty’. She never was at all sick but tonight said had a stomachache so tomorrow she’ll probably have it too.
Last night I was sick, discouraged, lonely and blue. This Damn hut got me down. I had fixed the place up and cleaned up before Bill got home but then Cindy threw up buckets and I didn’t have heart to cook dinner and was too weak by then.
I got to thinking and all I wanted was to see all of you. I’d been blue for days anyways.
Mom – not even a battery radio here – I haven’t even heard the radio or seen TV since March!!! [February, really, when they left the Anchorage apartment to head back into the valley.]
Oh, it will be worth it and on sunny days it’s nice but I do get lonely and I can’t go anywhere myself – I don’t even dare to walk for fear of bears.
The grass and all is four feet tall now!
Yesterday we were in a fog and cloud – I couldn’t see at all and even hated to go off to empty potty. Very depressing, scary and blue.
Last night for first time I cried and cried. I truly hated it here then and knew you must never try it alone. Last night I felt imprisoned with a seven month sentence! It’s rather like that.
We’re so financially strapped and can’t even go to a movie alone. I hadn’t been since January 1st and other day – last week we took kids and went. I was so tired by time it was over and couldn’t enjoy movie knowing we had fourteen mile trip to Eagle River and fourteen miles ‘back in’ and then the damn tractor ride. We were all dressed up and it’s pretty awful to have to stop and put on old clothes and mosquito repellent and all on for last one mile stretch and then sit in two-wheel open trailer –
Well last night I’d had it. I told Bill I’d pay $1,000 to see you and Charlie and Carolyn.
I wanted to go to Carolyn’s and have a peanut butter sandwich (hers are so delicious always!) and iced coffee and sit on her patio like we used to.
I planned how I’d come and surprise you!
Well, Bill said OK. I could come – Air Force would pay but I’m scared to fly – imagine me being here and I’m scared to fly and then I’d lose one month here and have to stay longer in winter and I’d need money for a few clothes for kids and Bill would be all alone. (He’d probably accomplish far more!)
Well today I had the RUNS and weak? Oh, OH, OH. I’ve been so sick to my stomach you’d swear I was pregnant.
Bill stayed home and helped. He did dishes (first time here and now can sympathize with me having to heat water and all) and got breakfast and lunch. I couldn’t eat.
Tonight I’m better and the runs have stopped.
We can hear the creek, the waterfalls and the river – they’re all so full after rain. The clouds have lifted and all is sweet and beautiful outside.
I love it here and someday we’ll have our road and house – but oh, how lonesome I am for all of you. It’s all I want – to see you and then return.
It’s been a big change – moving here and living like this – it piles up on you!!
Well, this turned out to be a long letter and I feel better for writing it!
I miss YOU and love YOU!
Shall I come?
I could OR would you rather come here?
I hate to travel with all four.
Bill won’t have vacation now until next summer.
His two years are up now and if he reenlists with the Army Corp of Engineers (signs up for two more) then we’re entitled to come to California and back free – and then in another two years – otherwise he loses it.
Help me decide.
Probably I should stay here!
Children’s books arrived but I’ve been too sick to look at them but will. Thanks!
P.S. I’d like to drive down and Bill says NO!
P.S. II We’ve had glorious weather and I’m tanned and so are kids. We needed the rain – hope we’ll have more sun though.
Hope you can decipher – written hurriedly by kerosene lamp you sent.
Can you send me some sleeping pills?
June 22, 23 and 24, 1959 Review – Monday through Wednesday
*Notes: I’ve been miserably lonely, sad, worried and upset. Everything has seemed terribly wrong. Bill was sick, the children have been sick and I’ve been sick. It has rained and we’ve been in the fog and the midst of a cloud for days – couldn’t see ahead of yourself at all – weird and depressing!
All in all it’s been a very unhappy week and I won’t elaborate on it, except to say: Homesteading isn’t all roses!!!
Bill and I managed to have our first bad fight and I could never tell you why except I feel abused, imprisoned, lonely, shut-in and blame him and I know it’s nobody’s fault.
Most of all I am lonesome and he is so tired when he gets home he doesn’t care to even talk and falls into bed and is asleep. I lay awake hours wondering and worrying.
I even feel bears lurk outside at night and I must keep awake and then all six of us in one room – that bothers me.
I wish sometimes – I would give anything to just turn on the radio and hear some music, news or someone else’s voice. No radio and no money to buy one!
Bill is working so hard but each of our jobs is so different. Each day he travels thirty miles to work and back and is with people all day. I sit here on my mountain top and the children are wonderful company for each other (and for me) but they’re CHILDREN. I get lonesome for adults to talk to – oh, so very lonesome!
I’ve been ‘back in’ for almost three months now – and no recreation at all and no companionship with Bill and we were always together so much – although this last year he’s been up here a lot.
Well, I’ll try to continue being a good sport. I wish I could sew. I saw a treadle sewing machine in the paper advertised but didn’t have $10.00 to get it.
This is still what I want and I know I can’t ‘have my cake and eat it too’!
June 25, 1959 Thursday
*Notes: We have had mild showers all day and in between the sun shines and there are huge white clouds in the blue sky and dark storm clouds over the glacier and surrounding mountains. Everything is so lush green outside after our recent rain storms. The wildflowers on our hill are truly beautiful.
I love our land and the scenery so. I love to watch the changing weather. But oh, how I hate to come into our dark, dreary hut with its four tiny windows!!
After being sick, everything was a mixed up mess today. Bill was accommodating and did the dishes but all week has really been a total loss and the hut showed it.
It does have a ‘peculiar hominess’ when swept, neat, country clean and fresh flowers, etc. BUT today it was horrible. I’ve worked all day and even got some mending done and coffee cake baked and all looks better now.
Oh for some money to do the things we have to do. We only have about $3.00 for the next four days and not even enough money to buy gas to run the tractor. Bill’s $250 loss really set us back. What would we ever do in a real emergency? We have absolutely no ‘nest egg’ at all – except Blue Cross. Oh, I pray, God will watch after us. This recent illness was hard enough up here.
I took lots of pictures today and tried to get flowers in most of them. Also several of John chopping wood. How happy John was to be outside again today after the rain. He worked so hard chopping wood and has chopped two big spruce trees up for wood – and does very well. I think he really has learned his lesson about handling a hatchet.
A child’s imagination can make a tree into so many things. The other day Cindy was up in the tree and declared, “I’m a bird and I’m laying eggs. See my nest?” Sure enough she had a nest of twigs and rope – but oh, how wonderful real bird nests are. They had a grand time being ‘birds’ for several hours. They flew and sang ‘bird songs’.
Today the same tree is a ship and John is the captain and the girls are the crew. They just had to drop ‘anchor’ as the showers started again and at this moment are making flags for the ship and preparing their ‘catch of fish’ they caught while aboard ship for their dinner.
Children are wonderful. Darling Sharon drew the sweetest picture for Daddy to cheer him up because “The road is so awful and it’s thundering out.”
And then, “Hooray, Hooray – Big Excitement.” Bill got the Jeep up!! – much to our surprise. How comforting it is to see it parked out our door! I don’t take too much stock in it, as I now know at best it will only be until the snow falls. But even that is wonderful!
We thought we would go to town tomorrow but Linda’s been sick today and we better not. Then we don’t have any money and even have to bring our lunches in!
Same Day – Umpteen Hours Later: It is well past midnight and once again I can’t sleep which is really quite strange for me who has always been one of the more fortunate people who goes to sleep the very moment their head touches the pillow. I’ve had more and more difficulty going to sleep ever since moving to the ‘HUT’ on our own land. I’ve tried ‘relaxing’ and even ‘counting sheep’ but all to no avail.
I lay there and stare at this high rounded ceiling and feel myself becoming amazed and surprised to find myself here in a ‘near tent’ and wondering how we will manage this winter and on and on it goes – one thought leading to another without any end.
Tonight I decided to arise and write. Maybe I will become tired this way and writing eases my loneliness and always relaxes me.
Bill and the children are fast asleep!
This crazy schedule we lead here certainly doesn’t induce sleep – at least not for me.
Bill is ‘dog tired’ after his 60 MILES traveling time every day – 30 on bad, rough roads and a long day at the office.
I’ve worked too today – even planted more gardens. Mom’s twelve tomato plants arrived intact but very dry — but much to my complete amazement still alive I think — $1.00 air mail postage. I bet I could’ve bought them cheaper downtown but so sweet of Mom to send them. I hope they will live and maybe I’ll get green tomatoes for relish. Alaska’s summers are too short for many crops, tomatoes included. She even sent squash (which will do fine, I think and watermelon seeds – which must be started very early here and only survive in a hot house). Corn and cucumbers can’t be grown here either!
But still I am not tired in the same way Bill is tired. I hope soon I can get a typewriter. Then I can write late like this when it is so quiet and peaceful and type them in the day time. Yes I must. It will occupy my mind and I love to write – who cares if I ever do anything with them? I do – that’s who.
Oh, how we could use the money. Bill came home with a post office notice of a certified letter to get there and we are afraid we are being sued. We owe so much on Jeep repairs and all.
It is raining outside. We had some thunder around 4:00 and I noticed in the paper that some fifty forest fires have been started by lightning and that thousands of acres are burning now as a result of it, careless fires and many other causes. We have had such a dry summer up until lately. Oh, how I pray that God will watch over us: A fire back here would be too awful to contemplate!!
Well, it’s 12:30 in the morning. I’ll try again.
June 26, 1959 Friday
*Note: Tonight I spruced all up and felt far better for it! It used to be that I couldn’t stand to ‘dress up’ if I wasn’t completely bathed first. Well, tonight I had about two cups of water and managed to wash my face, neck, hands and arms – change into a petticoat and backless sundress, earrings and a flower in my hair and lots of cologne and felt like a million! (I remember Mother once telling me that is what the French do!) Bill was so pleased when he came home and surprised!
I felt so nice instead of pants and shirt. It really gives me a lift to dress up, even up here on our mountain.
Bill drove home again and oh, how can I describe the marvelous feeling it gives me to see our Jeep parked in front of our ‘hut’.
I realize how important it is for me to jot down notes such as these as the day will come when it will be difficult to recall all our first homesteading experiences. Someday I will sit in our lovely snug house and people will drive up to see us. Then I can read back and remember again our first struggles – heartaches – worries – fears – and happiness.
Today I baked. How excited the children were. I haven’t baked much since coming here. They used to take it for granted when I made cookies or pies, but not any longer. Sharon ran out to John, “Mommy’s baking cookies.” Then later John said, “Pie too – now Mother is making a pie.”
All week I have wanted to bake but expect our gas to run out any day and was sure it would give out just before I popped them into the oven. But luck was with us. The cookies were so good and so was the pie.
Bill brought home lettuce and tomatoes and fresh milk – such a treat. He just about gave up for a while bringing those things home on the tractor. We had a delicious meal of Spanish food, salad and chocolate pie!
The kids didn’t get to bed until midnight again as I didn’t have enough water to bathe them until Bill got home and it took ages. Bill didn’t get home until 9:00 – then dinner – then baths! They do sleep late mornings and thank goodness. It’s vacation time.
Acquired two more water cans from Butner at $1.00 a piece. That means six more gallons of water. [These were each five gallon metal Army Gerry cans, not three.] Will really help especially since I’m doing my wash at home now to save money. I find if I do it every day like I used to when I had babies I can almost keep up with it now that we’re not combating mud any more (only dust).
June 27, 1959 Saturday
*Note: Overcast day. Today Bill got up early and spent an hour thoroughly greasing the tractor. He says he hates to take the time (each minute is so valuable and already June is almost over!) but he says that in the long run he feels it will save time on repairs.
As I write this Bill is down on the road trying to fix up the bad rock section so as to get our trailer up. I see so little of my husband now and do miss him. This, I realize, is a part of homesteading.
Those people have gone back to Butners’ place again. I wondered if they would return. They stopped by on the way back and haven’t definitely decided to take over his place but are really interested.
July 3, 1959 Friday
I wanted to get a letter to you in the mail yesterday so there wouldn’t be a long three day delay – but I didn’t make it.
I went to town two days this week and it really made the week go by fast! – Especially since today is Friday and the government now gets a holiday if a holiday falls on weekends.
Bill is out clearing land now and it is pouring cats and dogs! But time is flying. We had our longest day of year in the middle of June and now each day gets shorter again and it gives a person the feeling that fall is coming – even though it’s only July. But my, how the months whiz by.
I went to town Tuesday and we all took baths and then for the very first time Bill got a ride home from work and I met him in Eagle River – so I got a chance to visit some people.
I do like the people here. Yesterday afternoon I stopped to see some old neighbors in the apartments and such a contrast. The children on Government Hill were bickering, fussing and crowded and so were the women!! A disgruntled – unhappy lot.
Here in Eagle River they’re busy and happy.
Poor Mrs. Gunter is just now on her feet and her little boy Gary pulled over a pan of boiling hot water on himself that she had in this room for steam for a cold – and burned himself very severely. His little arm and hand is horrible and his leg has third degree burns on it!
People have their troubles.
Then I visited with Mrs. Anderson next door.
While waiting for Bill, Mrs. Tuck – wife of man who owned tractor that did our $610.00 worth of work on our road, stopped over and said she had left a note in our mailbox. Wanted money.
Then her husband drove up and told me how wrecked their tractor was after ‘our job’ and how he had to pay the operator cash and tractor repairs and on and on. I told Bill and we stopped and gave them $25.00. It was pay day but we’re so broke honestly Mom I even carry lunch in town and we eat so poorly – yet that $250.00 Bill lost left its mark – yet when I see Mrs. Gunter I know how lucky we are!
How I hate to owe money here in Eagle River though. I worried over that all week –
John has always liked their boy, Edward real well and oh, I hate owing money!
They invited John to stay overnight and he was thrilled – for first time. We let him and he was thrilled and she says he behaved very well! He never sees boys anymore and he was in seventh heaven. If we ever get the trailer up to the homestead I’ll have Edward up some weekend.
On the way home I got so sick. We were too broke to eat out and it was late and we hadn’t eaten but half a sandwich for lunch. I got sick as a dog on the bumpy road and had to have Bill keep stopping. I was so blamed sick and thought I’d pass out. That stomach flu hangs on and on and none of us have been well, well. Linda did get it very mildly – but got right over it. I never seem to recover completely from it!
When we got to trailer I threw up over and over and felt somewhat better. Then I got chills and vomited – Bill had been given a new pill from Mrs. Pollard when he had it and had one extra and gave it to me – I was asleep in fifteen minutes – woke up next morning fine – but weak. Thank God!!
It’s an awful place to be sick – but the homestead must be home now because on that God awful bumpy road Bill kept saying, “Come on, I’ll take you back to town to a motel because you’re sick,” and I said “No, — I want to go HOME!”
And oh, how good, it was to climb into our own bed!
“Be it ever so humble there’s no place like HOME!”
The next day I could keep the three girls quiet and John can’t be quiet!
John says they all went over to visit Janie – Oh Mom, I bet Mrs. Tuck tells everyone we owe them money and wrecked their tractor.
Bill spent all last weekend trying to build a road on top of the ditch but HE CAN’T. The tractor just is not big enough and he doesn’t know how! Our ditch is caving in!!
Did I tell you we drive up now – oh that road – you just grit your teeth and hang on but you emerge alive. Driving Helps.
We broke the springs on our Jeep coming in – had them repaired this week and now has ‘shock absorbers’ I think Bill called them so it won’t happen again.
Tomorrow Bill is taking me to Eagle River to work at Bockstahler’s. She’s taking a ‘special trip’ to Nome and Kotzebue and I promised her ages ago I’d watch shop – so I’ll be there from 9:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M. Hope to iron and write you long newsy letters about things I always have to skip in these!
Bill will work at Bockstahler’s cabin – still stuff stored in their van! [Where it had been for over a year.] Hope it won’t rain. I do believe we get extra rain and moisture up there in the mountains!
Last night on the way home saw Pollards in the market. He told Bill that those people [Easterlys] have filed on Butner’s place – they were up there today already – so maybe will have help on the road.
Yet, I tell Bill, our privacy is gone!
Oh well – it may be worth it in the long run. They only have one boy who goes away to college next year – better than Butners’ four children. I’ll keep you informed.
Bill says – why don’t you get a five acre homesite? Now listen – there’s land available next to us – flat – and lovely. You’d use our road and not go any higher than us. There’s only a strip of land available and just left between Pollard’s and Butner’s and ours.
Now any land available for homesteading is also available for homesite. There aren’t any living requirements. Land is free – but you must build a ‘habitable cabin’ on it – I think within three years! Perfect – huh – and five acres is a lot.
We’ll look into more later.
Now I’ve also decided to stick to my land here like glue!
Bill needs my encouragement (such as it is) but I do manage to be so when HE needs it. He’d never eat right without me.
You’re so right this is a work summer! And will pay off later.
Now we’re going to do everything in our power to get our trailer up this month and if we do then you come. Otherwise – you better not, unless you’d rent a room from someone. Mrs. Pottle tells me every time she sees me – for you to stay with them. There’s a real nice older couple in Spoerry’s log house where we used to live. You’d really like her! They would probably rent you a room. Well, we’ll see!
So plan on coming and we’ll work towards that.
Oh, so much to write you about . . .
Mrs. Pollard’s father died from cancer. It was all ‘very tragic’ as she’s very close to him and he was due to come to spend the entire summer with them – instead she got a wire that he was in hospital for operation. She flew right home. They operated and removed one lung. [Dorothy’s account is in her book, “Eight Stars of Gold: Notes from a Mid-Century Alaska Homestead Journal” by Dorothy Pollard Price, Vantage Press, 2008.]
She returned home and they bought Butner’s trailer – painted it all up and expected him to come up to recuperate. He died within one week. She flew home again. They have troubles.
Mr. Pollard is ill too – and she told me confidentially that the doctors think he has cancer – isn’t that terrible. (They really are nice but do talk about people – but everyone does!) Anyways last night at market she told me her mother (who she is NOT close to – and is a religious fanatic and fusser (he tells Bill) and her 81 year old grandma (who they say is more fun and best sport of all, like our Grandma) and her old maid fussy, 40 year old cousin arrived in Anchorage and are now staying indefinitely in trailer. Heavens! Her cousin declared after arriving, “I hate Alaska and can’t stand this HOLE you live in!”
Must close – so much to do. Yesterday tried to save money by bringing seven loads of wash home to dry – and now, of course, it’s raining. I told lady at wash place it would if I didn’t have them dried and I was right. Now I have to dry them in front of our wood burner – as if we’re not crowded enough!
Love, Love, Mildred. P.S. Tomorrow will write about school for children.
IV. Not a typical dream homestead
July 5, 1959 Sunday
Have thoroughly enjoyed your wonderful letters about your vacation – wish I’d been there too and John is ‘agog’ – about gold mines. So very glad you went! Got such a kick of reading about you in tent at Yosemite!
Oh, see here it’s about midnight and Bill is returning from clearing – now it’s quite dark – dusk really out — and getting darker every day. Colder out now and has ‘feel’ of autumn – oh, please, not yet – “so much” to be done.
We take absolutely no time out — and I’m always bone tired – I think lifting water cans, gathering wood and all – I use different sets of muscles. How Bill stands it I don’t know – He’s truly a wonder – he goes, goes. Remembering – we used to wonder how he’d do it? He gets up at 5:00 and goes to bed at 12:00 – or later. Day in, day out –
I’ve been waiting to write hoping I’d have news! Pollard was to do road work this weekend for people that took over Butners’ place – they [Easterlys] did take it and are building a cabin from the Cottonwood grove up there – green wood! She’s fun – quite a character!! [five underlines] Just the couple, both work and 18 year old boy who will go to college this fall!
Anyway Pollard was to try to get our trailer up – well it poured (naturally on weekend) and road got muddy. Well, he didn’t do anything and now says this week.
On 4th of July I worked for first time at Bockstahler’s and guess what? I worked 25% commission and got $34.00. I bet he’ll never recover – or hire me again! She had wanted to pay me $1.00 an hour + commission and I refused — and then made that. But from 9:00 to 9:00 Bill stayed in watching children in car so I was glad. [I am not sure what this means.] I gave it all to Pollard on his work and now [owe] him $95.00 and she hated taking any more when he’s never gotten the trailer up. The road is now too narrow for trailer. It’s empty and our ‘hut’ is really crowded.
Oh Mom, so many big and little things to tell you and already bedtime and bed is loaded with laundry to put away.
Day before went to town for first time in almost two weeks. We stayed overnight at Motel for only 12.00 for two rooms and kitchen. It’s a remodeled house and nice. New sheets, pillows, blankets etc. I went to bed at 8:00. Did laundry in afternoon, we all showered and I ironed next day until 2:00 – closing time.
Then I took kids to see salmon boats coming in. Man gave me a fresh salmon!! I gave half to Bockstahler’s and his Father who’s visiting them cleaned it etc. for us. Last night we had steaks and oh, how I thought of YOU!
Oh Mom I must see YOU if only for two weeks – two years would be too long.
I’ve so hoped and prayed that I could write you that the trailer was up but I can’t. We finally (or I did) put linoleum down here – we were waiting until Bill had plywood down so it wouldn’t crack but couldn’t stand these awful floors. I could write you ten pages about the time I had getting it down. It was an awful job with all stuff we have in here now! Looks so much better but is cracking.
Let’s wait and see if trailer gets up. You can sleep on roll-a-way in with us but it’s so crowded but there’s room between kids’ bunk beds! This hut is warm – in fact too hot when fire is going. It’s up to you – I want to see you so badly.
Mrs. Pollard’s mother is with them until school opens. Her 85 year old grandma was up here and her cousin – they left.
I want you here – we must be together, Please! We can wait for money but our time together, I feel, is most important. Our whole family has a trip due us now to California paid for by the Army and will come down to see you next!
Now I want to know – I wrote one long, long letter and thought it would be waiting when you returned. I mailed it several days before I heard you were on vacation — and didn’t write since because I knew you were gone and thought it would be there when you returned and as I said I hoped I could write you the trailer was here. Also I mailed two sets of recent road pictures and of John’s Birthday!! And asked you to return them. I wrote detailed descriptions and notes!! Did you get these! They were sent air mail. I won’t rest until I know. Golly did both letter and pictures get lost?
Must close now – Bill is washed and can’t get to bed until I clear it off. Got Sharon’s card and check today – oh, you must see her and others!!
I’m quite sure I’m going to have a nursery school in our old log house – more later – lease would start August 15th and you could sleep there.
Love and write
July 9, 1959 Thursday
*Notes: Showers on and off, is a lovely day in between. Down to two big enormous boxes full of all sorts of miscellaneous things to put away – heaven knows where!! Of course there are many boxes left but those are stored away under and behind, etc.
Still so much to do. Bill really is feeling the pressure of ten acres to be cleared before snow falls!! He has wanted to move the location of this hut but so little time. All still indefinite as to our winter plans.
We are busy making gumdrop and marshmallow men for Cindy’s birthday and Methodist group arrived. Very much impressed with our view and much to my dismay did come into the trailer (never realized how small it is until ten to fifteen people came in and out, clucking both ways) and up our two steps joking about our ‘being right up with the times’ with a split-level house!! [This is the first mention of the trailer being up the mountain. The description of its arrival is in a later letter to her mother.]
The hut is still really so very crowded but it is what it is and so are we – so they looked and heavens knows [rest of this is missing]
*Notes: Finally a nice day, sunny, windy and cold but clear. The snow still remains on the mountain tops and reminds us of winter approaching all too soon! In California I imagine everyone is scorching from the heat. We are fortunate – but already here in Alaska we feel that the hot summer has passed but who can tell? We could still have some lovely summer weather in August. We did two years ago. Two years – and how they have flown. [Since their arrival in Alaska.] Time passes so quickly here – days, months and years.
Still today the ‘school problem’ presses heavily upon me and I know a certain decision must be reached – and how and how am I to be certain of the right decision? Oh, how many decisions have had to be made — for right or for wrong only the future can tell – these past few years. The decision first and foremost to come to Alaska at all and leave all certainties back in California – then to leave the cozy log house for Bockstahler’s shack [they rented the previous summer] with the future goal of homesteading clearly before us. We left there to live in town. Should we have stayed at Bockstahler’s? We still wonder if we would have been money ahead if we had, but at the time we felt our decision was the only answer what with winter coming on and no money to buy a Jeep or to winterize that place.
Yet now I wish we had that land for an investment and our things were stored there [in a van], but yet, we felt then as we feel now. We must put all our efforts toward our homestead. Now I wonder if I wouldn’t spread my own efforts too thin if I start a nursery school now. (more of that later!)
Then in town with an easier way of life again how easy it would have been to give up all homesteading ideas. But no it was what we wanted then and now.
Oh how glorious it is here this morning. My heart aches with love for this place of ours. I love every view, every wildflower, every tree, every inch of this place and if necessary I will teach the children for three months here – if we decide it best – to keep this place!!
BUT then I feel I must have them attend public school for the remainder of the year!!! They must not ‘lose out’ on their schooling. They must not stay back – and yet they must not become overly tired and get sick!
Perhaps I should send John and Linda to Pasadena with Mother for school and have Cindy attend private school in town!! Oh dear God, I pray to you for guidance and help!!! Direct me in the way in which YOU wish me to travel and to guide me in directing the children’s paths – now as never before. Oh dear God, You are so wise I now feel I must depend on Your wisdom and ask You to help show us the way as You have shown us – I truly believe – until now! Amen.
It’s a prayer. My heart cries out this prayer – for I know not what the answer will be!!!! I must consider all Pros and Cons.
Teaching children at home until January 1st – For: Children would have Xmas vacation, wouldn’t have to ‘go out’ if sick, wouldn’t have long travel and get over-tired and perhaps be too tired to do proper school work and behave as well, would take less money as no before and after school care, not so many clothes to buy.
Against: Too much time with me, might not get academic background, Cindy wouldn’t start first day of first grade at school, wouldn’t be with other children, no social training and mixing with other children, might get behind their class and stay back, we might all get ‘cabin fever’, we don’t know whether we can get up and down the mountain!!!
The Nursery School – For: Place for our children to go before and after school, can take showers there, can do wash there, extra money maybe, Sharon have company her own age, build up future business, help community, could move out [Not sure ‘out’ of where?] in January until June, would know log house awaiting us, could save on storage after January.
Against: Make us all too tired, could ‘go in hole’ financially, could use rent money on homestead, I might get ‘snowed in’ on homestead and couldn’t get there [Couldn’t get to log house if she had a nursery school there.], own children might get sick and couldn’t ‘get out’ – then what?
Other Alternatives: Mother could take John and Linda – go to private school in Pasadena this year. John could go to Flintridge. Oh NO! I couldn’t bear to have him away and he would be so unhappy. John tuition at Government Hill school $90.00 per month. I could watch them before or after school. Still long haul in and out, in and out, in and out!!! — NO, NO, NO, not that and perhaps hiking back up mountain – to fall in bed and probably too tired to eat!!! Let alone do homework. Maybe they wouldn’t get as much if I teach them but probably as much as they would if went in and out and were tired all the time.
One I don’t even consider really is having all three go to Chugiak school and have someone else take care of them before and after school for $40.00 per month because I don’t know anyone I can really trust who would really want to do it!! And too much for Bill having three children alone to get in and out.
July 10, 1959 Friday
Our Darling Cindy’s 6th Happy Day
*Notes: A gorgeous sunny day, blue, blue skies and warm as toast. Heavenly day!! I just went out and left the boxes for another day. The children and I – my, we are getting brave! – ventured over to the canyon edge where we could watch the two waterfalls rush down the steep mountain and meet together forming the creek below.
It is such a lovely sight and is my favorite spot and one can capture every bit of the scenery surrounding us from that point.
The sun was so hot I told the children we’d have a real treat on this warm day – Cindy’s Happy Day. We’d put water in our California wading pool (it hasn’t been put to use since then). Oh, such shouts of glee! I dug out their swim suits (oh we must try to take them swimming at least once this summer) and used extravagantly four water cans of water and it hardly made a dent – (me, who is so careful of water) but oh, how repaid I was for an extra trip by Jeep to the creek below us for more water.
The children loved it! They ducked, splashed each other, laid flat on their bellies and laughed and laughed. Such fun they had in those few inches of water!! They’re really quite deprived of that experience here!!
They were clean and cool when Bill returned looking as dusty and dirty as a chimney sweeper – only his teeth and eyes were white. Such a sight – and hot and dirty.
We put the cans in the Jeep and a towel and soap and took off. We met Lowes on the bottom switchback coming to see us! They came to the creek with us. The water was cold but good. I can’t stand in it, it’s too icy but feels so nice to wash in it. Both of us felt better and we filled the water cans and headed home!
Mrs. Lowe said she took two tranquilizers before coming to soothe her on the mountain road. Good thing she never saw our old one.
It’s hard to make people understand that this is a new road. We found in California that people believe what they see. It’s almost impossible now for anyone to even begin to visualize the awful struggles we had coming up here before and fighting the ice, snow and mud. Now that two-wheel cars can buzz up it really makes such a difference in so many ways!!
The people the other day said, “How could you get a trailer up here over that road?”
Oh, that we’d had such a road!! If they only knew!!
It’s interesting to hear what people say about all this – the view, our place and our dwelling. (No bitterness on my part) and “Oh, Frank,” shouted Mrs. Lowe to her husband. “Come and see the hut it’s PINK inside. She’s painting the canvas pink. It’s cute!”
They did like it and were very enthusiastic over the place. What stories they will tell when they get home!! It started to shower as we were taking them up to the top and they turned around and left. I wish I were more settled and Bill had time and I would have had them to dinner. It would have to be outside because of lack of space and it showers so frequently here that would be hard to plan on.
I tell Bill it is senseless to try to impart our feelings about our homesteading, our dreams and this place in its entirety to others. It is like describing your own beloved child to another. They see the child and its momentary actions (and sometimes they show their worst self exactly like our place did the other day when it rained for the group and then the sun shone for hours after they left).
You must LIVE here to capture its real feeling and to see the sun rise, the clouds hang low and the mists rise – to see the sudden showers and the rainbows and the gorgeous sunsets – to grow to love it as we do.
Yet, that’s our reward and to others they see it as it is when they are here and heaven knows the reactions of many. “Those crazy people living on that lonely mountain.” How wrong they are!
No, this is our story – ours alone and they but get a glimpse into it and that, I guess, is the way it’s meant to be!!
— Very blue at night – about nothing special – decided I have been inside too much trying to fix up this place so Sunday plan to spend outside as much as possible!!!
July 13, 1959 Monday
*Notes: Cindy’s Birthday was a great success. Her presents were opened at breakfast time. Then the walk and pool and creek and then company. We blew up balloons and stuck them by toothpicks into a flower pot which was in the center of the table. We ate outside and she loved it. The kids had fresh lemonade and coffee for the adults. Her cake turned out well and was quickly wished upon and eaten and then the children celebrated Tiny Tear’s [doll] first Birthday with her one year cake and lots of laughs.
After that we shot off our 4th of July fireworks. Then they [Lowes] left. Fun, fun and sleepy children.
I’m writing this on Monday morning while they still sleep!! It’s another lovely, sunny day!!
July 16, 1959 Thursday
My I’ve had a really delightful time – and it’s been just what I’ve needed!! To hear me talk you’d think I’d been out gallivanting somewhere and I haven’t – far from it. But one really comes to appreciate taken for granted things when one homesteads, believe me! Fresh milk, crisp lettuce – these are a rarity when we don’t have refrigeration!! – We’ve only had corn once and oh, how I yearned for some watermelon the other night!! We weighed it at 13 cents per pound – ½ weighed 1.50 – and we very reluctantly decided against it! As Bill said “It’s cold and rainy out – let’s wait until it’s hot and we’ll enjoy it twice as much.” (But just between you and me I think we’ve had summer and now are having a California winter – cold and rainy!)
Well tonight, I’ve had time alone that’s my luxury. I’ve been busy, busy for two days but I’ve been doing the kind of things that just doesn’t show.
Did I tell you Bockstahler’s sold their five acres and shack to an Anchorage artist and there will be an artists’ colony there, ultra Japanese gardens – well we’ll see but that’s the artist’s plan!! Anyway while I worked at Bockstahler’s on the 4th Bill finished getting stuff and junk out of Bockstahler’s van. Oh, I wish you could have seen the old truck and the trailer behind it loaded to the hilt – the week before!!
Well, we had all this stuff and junk and absolutely positively no place to put it. Plus books plus books and scrapbooks and magazines and baby playpen etc. etc. etc. Right now the darling bunny cradle is beside me for lack of a better place to put it – so sad – it’s empty! [Bill made this for his firstborn, John.]
Today I had to get things in and covered – it poured. It’s been rainy off and on for well over a week now and sun comes out in between. Actually it’s grand for the vegetables, flowers and got the dust down but is bad for our road and we use winter chains on the Jeep to get home – but we do drive – how I’ll never know. (Each time Bill gets home he says he’s amazed!) It did get stuck in the mud the other night and he walked home and got the dear tractor and pulled himself out! Really wonderful what the tractor has done for us!!! We never could have stayed here without it. (Tell C. and C.!)
Anyways all day I’ve gotten into boxes etc. You know how it is – and tonight still had so much to do.
I spent hours out-doors in the rain after dinner — Bill was clearing and hasn’t time for anything else but to chop wood – we heat by wood. (I break dry ones and gather it but can’t chop logs!)
Tonight I couldn’t go to bed at 12:00 when Bill did – so for first time I stayed up. (By the way I got pills and thanks and how much were they?) [Sleeping pills.]
Anyways I sorted, I sewed, I cleaned ha, ha closets – we have plastic bags tacked over the cross bars of hut and those are the closets!
Anyways I cleaned out and packed things in mothballs and now it’s 2:30 A.M. exactly. I’ve washed, and climbed in next to sleeping Bill and am luxuriously writing to YOU!
I know you can understand this!! Now can’t YOU?
I’ve built up the fire – which is usually out hours before this and hut is warm as toast. It’s pouring out! A little while ago I went out and clouds were moving fast all around us – we’re literally up in the clouds! This afternoon I called the children out to watch the clouds. It was sprinkling out and the sun was shining and over the craggy peaks way beyond and above us the clouds were moving so fast – it was beautiful and amazing!
Around us are hills all covered with green grass and bushes – beyond these are green mountains – high and lofty and oh Mom, the 3rd set of mountains are high and still have snow on them! I’ll never rest until you’ve seen this place with your own eyes! How I love this spot!!
Sometimes I get so discouraged and blue but I could never, never give it up!
Everyone that comes here is agog and says we have the most perfect spot in the valley – and oh Mom, I know it’s true but I hardly dare love it the way I do until that happy day we own it and I don’t let others know how much it means to us. I don’t dare!! I tell them how hard it is and how awful the road is – I agree it’s beautiful beyond all compare but I can’t and won’t show them how I love it and adore this place and this view until we have clear title. DO you understand?
I must sleep now! Tomorrow we go to town! Sharon wants Eskimo slippers with your check or a bird – she doesn’t want it to talk but to sing!
I’ll write you more about the nursery school later. I’ve still not decided but must decide this week! It’s the only way I can think of to get our seven months in now before January and still have them attend school and we could take baths and do wash there – then in January we’d stay there week nights and come here weekends to work inside! [She is writing about the log house rental they moved out of a year earlier.]
I’d rather of course NOT, there are many headaches involved etc. etc. I’ve thought about it all summer but I can’t teach three children and Sharon would have company and be warm and I won’t get cabin fever (and I now realize even I’m susceptible to this).
Let me know your ideas NOW on the subject!! I’d charge $15.00 for one, $25.00 for two in one family. 50¢ an hour for one, 75¢ for two in one family, $1.00 for more than two. Must stop. Love, Love, Love
July 26, 1959 Wednesday [The account of the trailer coming up the mountain is in this letter.]
Where is the elation I thought I would feel? The trailer is up. I am glad but overwhelmed I guess, by the amount of work I have to do and completely absorbed in my quandary of what to do this fall. Should I have a ‘day care center’ in our former log home and move there in December OR teach the children at home and move to town in January?
There are so many pros and cons on both sides. One day I decide one and the next day the other. I have even written long lists but just can’t reach a definite decision. Oh, how I wish YOU were here now to discuss it all with YOU! I must decide now though and no chance to even discuss it via air mail. It is quite a lengthy process to get the correspondence course through the State – tests and all – so I must do it. Spoerry will rent me the log house but wants to know now. Of course that involves advance rent. It’s a tough decision to make.
Well, Sunday Bill said, “The trailer is coming up.” I just didn’t dare think about it. Sure enough Pollard did try to widen the road in the morning and his tractor stalled. He said for Bill to meet him at 5:00 to try again. How I wanted to go and watch. Bill said, “No. There’s work to do!”
So I stayed home and busied myself. Within an hour and a half I heard a tractor. Linda was helping me with dishes and I said, “Oh, it’s just Daddy returning by himself.” Then finally, “Linda go see if they have the trailer. I can’t stand the suspense.” All the time I just knew they didn’t but oh, Mom they did. It was dented and muddy but WHOLE. Dorothy Pollard sat next to her husband and the boys too. They just had to see too.
We all celebrated over a pot of coffee! I haven’t fixed it yet. I plan to thoroughly clean it and wax the walls and paint the outside. Mom, it will be ready for you on August 1st. Will you come? Can you really afford to make the trip? And do you really want to??
I’ve been nervous these last few days. Pollards have had a bear in their yard every day this past week and saw two on the road last week. I wouldn’t worry but Pollard shot one Saturday night in their yard and felled it. They followed the bloody trail but lost it – so now there’s a wounded bear close by. It gives me the jitters!
Monday I kept the children in all day. It was rainy anyways. Bill was home yesterday with a cold. He slept past the alarm clock or wouldn’t have stayed home. He is so tired and yet won’t stop! He has about half of the clearing done now and won’t rest at all until it is all done. Then it must be plowed and planted still!!!!!
Yesterday John and Bill hiked down to the creek to put signs up. Now we’re all marked! There’s a survey crew of eleven ‘back in’ here now surveying the land. Electricity will follow! We don’t know if we’ll get it up here or not!! It would mean so much this winter – once again I hardly dare count on it.
Bill had sad, sad news Monday on Sharon’s Birthday. By the way last Friday we went to town, took showers on the base and bought Sharon darling white Alaska slippers. They are leather beaded and trimmed with fur. They were a close out in a Government Hill gift shop and reduced to $2.25 from $5.50. She is saving the rest of the money you sent her for her bird. I didn’t dare get one until I’m sure of our plans. They take cold so easily.
I bought her lots of little presents amounting to the $5.00 I gave to the others. She loved them!!
Anyways, the Jeep broke down. The Ford still isn’t sold and sits in the Eagle River garage with a ‘For Sale’ sign on it. The transmission went out on the Jeep. At least $150 to repair it and we still owe $200 on back repairs and haven’t made a payment for over two months!
You can see why I worry!!!!
Would I help best by teaching the children, or by trying to make money at the Nursery? Which, which, which?
Pollard brought Bill home Monday and took him to work today. This place is strictly cash so will have to pay them and there goes our Jeep payment!
So it goes!
I didn’t mean for this letter to sound so discouraging. Really I’m not — Bill is! I just know that in several years things will be better. It’s NOW that’s the trouble. Nobody will buy the Ford unless it’s fixed up and that costs. The [Jeep] truck needs two wheels and is in rotten shape – Not saleable.
But Oh Mom, the trailer is here and if I can see YOU I will be happy. Truly. I want that more than anything. I guess I’m being selfish. I don’t mean to be! But I haven’t anyone to talk to and never see anyone or if I do it’s just Hello. Nobody knows our business!
I only go ‘out’ once a week and then I do wash, showers, errands and return.
Mom, how soon could you come? August 1st will be Saturday, [can you come] one week from this Saturday? Could you? If I rent the log house you could stay there the last two weeks in August and I would come down every day to get the place ready for the Nursery. My rent starts August 15th IF I take it. You could be up here two weeks to rest and visit and then two weeks down there to test people. Sounds good, doesn’t it?? Let me know. I want you to come whether we take the log house or not. Love, Mildred
July 28, 1959 Tuesday
I AM discouraged today – and the rainy, foggy, gloomy day just suits my miserable mood! Oh Mom, I’ve gone over all this ‘school problem’ in my mind so many, many times now and finally thought the Nursery School would be the answer.
Yesterday I stopped by to see the very nice teacher, Mrs. Erickson who lives in Spoerry’s house now. I told her that they would reduce the rent $10.00 if we would pay maintenance costs. She advised us not to sign THAT lease because the furnace has given them as much trouble as it gave us. They did just have the well dug for $200, but the furnace was an intricate one and put in by Mr. Spoerry who DID NOT know what he was doing!!! So we would have trouble with THAT and it costs to have a repairman come clear from Anchorage!
Mrs. Spoerry said the house would have extra wear and tear if I had a nursery and I can see that. But the furnace certainly wouldn’t suffer because of children. Also I found out the new tenants have been paying $140.00 a month. We paid $155.00 so I feel I am surely being done wrong!!! Spoerry told me in the letter that she felt the house was worth our old rent but would reduce it $10.00 as Mr. Spoerry quoted me that price. Well, as you can see she really wasn’t giving US favors at all!!!
I also heard that due to the carpenters’ strike the school addition is not being finished. There will be a double session. How awful! It is also to alleviate the crowded buses. Of course, if I had the log house double session would be OK – I mean as far as care is considered. Still, of course, NOT satisfactory at all!! But it does eliminate any idea of anyone else caring for the children before and after school.
I saw Mrs. Wooten and found out she taught the Calvert System course to her child (one) for three years in Kotzebue, Alaska! She said it wore her out but she thoroughly enjoyed it. She showed me all the books, work books and papers. They were way ahead in school. Why, Calvert teaches art, Greek Gods, etc. which now are not introduced at all in regular school. But they are so far ahead she said the children might be put back one year when they start and then ahead again in public school. I couldn’t have that!!
Well, we’ll see. I have thought of working in town and putting Sharon in Nursery and then could afford $90.00 total tuition at Government Hill school. But such a distance to travel every day!! And still the bath problem and wash problem wouldn’t be solved.
The school teacher doesn’t have my own problems so can’t know how nice the log house would seem to me. We would save at least $30.00 on before and after school care and more if there was a double session. We would save another $60.00 on wash and baths and at least $30.00 a month at motels. Right there would be the rent!! And a chance to make money with children at the Nursery.
I stopped to see Janie yesterday for the first time since the snow melted. Her furniture is arranged just the same. She is just the same. Oh, some people!! [She is referring to her front neighbor when we lived in the log house after our arrival in Alaska two years prior to this letter.]
Mother, I just don’t KNOW. The truly maddening thing is it’s just for three months – September, October and November. Our residency time is up on December 3rd! If we leave before then we will have to return during the ‘break-up’ and Bill has to be here during September to take care of the clearing problem!
The tractor broke down Sunday night and he didn’t accomplish much over the weekend. I ironed Saturday morning at the motel and it was 1:00 before we got back to the homestead.
Oh Mom, so much to write you – I go in circles. Did I tell you there’s a survey crew surveying here and now as of yesterday the ‘right of way’ for electricity is starting!!! I don’t know if we’ll get it or not. Pollard is!! Will they bring it up the mountain for us?? Oh, how much it would mean to us!!
I’ve even thought of asking you to take John and Linda back until December and then I would come to visit and stay for Xmas vacation and bring them home! But I couldn’t have them so far away and it would be too much for you!!
I believe it is still – have the Nursery OR teach at home. I really hate to have Calvert for a half a year. I could do a whole year once I started and we would save and stay put all winter up here. Maybe next year there will be a road, a bus, and a school in Eagle River!!!
John is talking to Cindy about Easterly’s (above us) Jeep. It’s a homemade one, painted turquoise. He adores it! The other day he decided to spend his $16.00 (he still has it – so much like Charlie!) on a motor. He would build a Jeep. He never mentioned like Easterly’s! But I knew!! Now he’s telling Cindy, “I wish I could buy their Jeep. I could drive it back here.” Oh-oh, he is growing up!
Cindy spent her birthday money. I added to yours. She bought a doll, doll clothes, a pencil box and candy!! ($16.00) Wasteful but it was her money and they’ve been so good! She ordered it from Wards and it’s at the post office now!
I paid Tuck $100.00 yesterday from our poor paycheck. Now we’ve paid $125 on $610 and still owe Pollard $95.00. I HATE owing people in Eagle River. Oh, if I only knew what to do!!! How we need money now. I never cared so much before but now I want money to pay our bills and fix our place up – it will come – time, time, time!! I never spend a dime. I know the children must have school clothes if they go to school. I could use what they have if I teach at home!
I am in a mess here. I’ve taken everything out of the trailer and will NOT move in until it’s painted and clean. We tore out the old bed and scrubbed that room. I am really washing the walls and then will sand and varnish. I painted the tile in the kitchen turquoise and around the windows pink (it was black).
Let’s plan on August 9th for your visit, OK? The sooner the better! Love, Me
August 1, 1959 Saturday
*Note: Cute, tiny curtains and a clean, clean, bright trailer. How uplifting it will be and so much time it takes to do all this.
Bible School for kids.
August 3, 1959 Monday
I don’t know whether to write or not if you’re coming this Saturday. You might get here before this letter reaches you.
Didn’t hear a word since letter with check – which I’ll return to you because we sent check – air mail, special delivery to C. and C.
So hope for a letter today – this week there’s a Bible School at Pollard’s and I’ve brought children to it. They loved it. Ladies are so nice – and I think, very wonderful to do this! [Took place in a tent in Pollard’s field at the bottom of the mountain.]
Haven’t heard from Mrs. Spoerry yet either so am going to send applications in for home schooling course. I need Cindy’s birth certificate – cost $1.00 to get it from City Hall NOW so I can get the course. If you’re coming on 9th please bring it – will get here as fast that way and if on 15th send air mail as I must send it in now for course and will need birth certificate even if she goes to school.
Thanks. Love, Mildred
P.S. Got your letter Aug 15th perfect! Will be waiting with open loving arms, love you, me
August 7, 1959 Friday
*Note: Miserable Day.
Bible School in morning, kids up at 5:00. Went down the mountain with Bill. He rode into work with Pollard and school started at 9:00. All morning I wondered if Jeep would get me out. We all dressed up for a change. I wore heels (no choice as tennis shoes smelly with holes and no money to buy new ones) and a suit. I put petticoats and dresses on the girls, all to buy shoes for Cindy – FUN anyways.
Got ‘out’ and into town but the Jeep stalled several times and I had to start it again. Sure enough at 2:30 after I got the wash done in Mt. View and was ready to go it wouldn’t start. Oh, how can I describe how I felt. First time dressed up – all day planned even to night before when I gave each a tub [bath] (what a chore!). I tried and tried – no go.
A woman pushed me and the Jeep started. I followed what looked like a road and it was a gravel pit. Stuck. We sat in that hot sun and waited for Bill at 5:00. I could have cried. He had my Jeep towed. No dinner, kids tired and hot. Awful. Left there at 8:30 P.M. Got to bottom of Jeep mountain hill at 10:00. Bill’s Jeep [truck] wouldn’t take our first steep hill. Ten o’clock and we sat there, girls dressed up with light sweaters. Can’t walk home. No money. No dinner. Sharon asleep. Pollard comes up in his bathrobe when he heard Jeep trying and takes us home. How can you thank someone for doing that? Dinner at 10:30. Kids never complained. So good. Bed at 11:00 for children.
So discouraged and am I pregnant? Oh dear God Help Us!!
August 8, 1959 Saturday
*Note: Already I wish I’d written in a diary every day. So much has happened and how will I ever remember it all? It seems years ago since we first came out here. Everything has changed and I feel today as if I am possessed with a fever of activity – really shouldn’t take TIME – oh, precious time – to write but MUST and must try to catch up with my darting plans and thoughts.
Mom is coming next Saturday and oh, so much to do. Trailer is really getting to be beautiful like a new trailer. There’s no comparison to the old junk heap we looked at. I just put up the last curtain I made. It’s beautiful to me after living in one room hut for months. I want to move in this weekend but there are still some more cupboards to paint and walls to varnish – all turquoise and pink. I am thrilled with the transformation.
When I go to Eagle River to buy paint I must get a book and write, write and sometimes I feel what is the use? Not to sell – not a typical dream homestead. No cabin, just worry. But oh, our land and our dreams are there and we will and must make it.
Already things are happening – right of way for electricity pushing through, more homesteaders coming in – more and more. Already things are so different below us.
This morning Bill went down the mountain to see about the Jeep. He took the tractor and two-wheel trailer to haul water and laundry up (and ladies tent for Bible School, etc.). Mr. Beker [sp?] stopped by here with friend and wanted permission to pick berries. My, company. How things have changed.
Then up over the mountain came Pullens, kids and Wells. Men went on laying out road and Mrs. and daughter and boys stayed. We talked while I fixed lunch – nice! They arrived in January – building dream house of seventeen years. He works until 2:00 A.M. – both work in town.
I must carry notebook with me so I can get thoughts at the time – time will come when I have time to rewrite all this.
August 10, 1959 Monday
This will probably be the last letter I’ll write until I see you!! – wonders – wonders –
We’ll be at airport to meet you and if by chance we’re not WAIT do not leave. I say this because we have so much Jeep trouble – more now – and Jeep to garage today again. Hope will be in running condition by Saturday.
Girls are all sick – but better. Fever, sore throats – Linda barely sick, Cindy more and Sharon delirious with fever but all better now and Sharon’s fever broke last night.
I had hopes of being in the trailer by time you got here but had Bible School last week and then girls sick.
Well, you’ll be able to see how we’ve been living and all and we’ll move into trailer while you are here. It’s almost done and you can sleep in there. I want it perfect and hesitate anyways to use it until we have the connection between the trailer and the Jamesway for fear we’ll get sick going back and forth! Bill must finish clearing first – so much to do. Just think you’ll be here, I’m so thrilled and excited.
Do bring me some geranium clippings.
If I get the log house – still don’t know then I’d like some things from Holiday Hill for Xmas! Good idea?
We got letter back from Spoerry with lease to sign but we wrote back and said we would not sign unless they would maintain furnace – haven’t heard yet!!
We have sleeping bags – so don’t buy one! Bring warm clothes or can buy here. Wish you could stay all winter – I’m not going to want you to leave!
I’ll be counting days – love, love, love, Mildred
I decided to show you pictures when you get here. P.S. You’re a wonder!!!
August 10, 1959 Monday
*Notes: A gorgeous day but I made myself work all day long in the trailer and now I am so very glad I did. It really is shaping up and certainly doesn’t look at all, at all like the dirty, filthy rather smelly old junky trailer we first bought. The walls are clean and gleam. I like this dull varnish. It looks like wax!! I keep going back in just to look – so pretty.
Tonight I am tired and ache all over. One quart of varnish is gone. Bill got home late because he had to wait for the Jeep. $35.00 repair bill. Bad for us but could have been so much worse.
August 11, 1959 Tuesday
*Notes: Soon, soon, soon Mother will be here and I am getting excited. I moved the table and scrubbed the nine year old trailer but it still looks nice and tonight will varnish table and three folding chairs. Plants are blooming on the window sills and the floor is clean plus four coats of varnish.
It’s so beautiful to me after living in the hut for so long and then I can work on the hut!
I am fixing Mom’s room now. She will sleep in our old bedroom in the trailer. We rearranged the lawn furniture, planted wildflowers around the trailer and hooray at least nasturtiums will bloom for Mom even if nothing else does!
August 12, 1959 Wednesday
*Notes: Sometimes I wonder – why are we fighting so hard – why do we make it all so difficult for ourselves – John is here in a nice bed so clean after his bath and so comfortable when sick – how I wish he had his own room and his own bed. I feel ill myself tonight – I can’t stand having them sick.
August 13, 1959 Thursday
*Notes: How terrible for poor, darling Bill. He had the remainder of his upper teeth out this afternoon. Here I sit writing next to his bed. He is resting at the moment.
August 15, 1959 Saturday
[Mildred’s mother arrived for her second visit to Alaska and flew back to Los Angeles on Septembers 1st.]
August 20, 1959 Thursday
*Notes: Well, Mother has been here almost a week now and it’s passing much too fast!! We’ve had showery weather for the past few days and even more as I write the rain is pouring as the sun shines through the clouds.
I’ve decided to start Nursery school on September 8th when school starts. Each day Bill brings a few things down to the [log] house with him. I’m so hoping Ericksons will remain there and rent a room, at least until December 3rd – help to ease our expenses and verify that we will not live there.
So much to be done! My head whirls as I think of it all!!!
August 21, 1959 Friday Night
*Notes: We almost didn’t get through a bad mud hole on a steep hill next to Pollard’s clearing.
Took Mother to town for first time since here. We’ve been up on the mountain for one week with her. She surprises me with her adaptation to homesteading. She’s a marvelous sport!!
We had hoped to see the Eskimos dance so remained down town until 2:00 but it rained – again – so the dance was cancelled. We looked in shops and covered Anchorage from one end of town to the other. I’d love to get a fur parka for each child. Sharon looked absolutely adorable in a small rabbit parka. Someday!! Now every penny goes to machines and road building and homesteading – then we’ll think in terms of fur parkas!! Dreams!
I took Mother to visit the museum where we saw Alaska’s wildlife in its natural surroundings – terrifying and yet so grand! We enjoyed it immensely!
We saw ‘Tom Sawyer’ and ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ were playing so decided to remain in town to see them. The first show starts at 6:00 – so we decided if we could get to it we would still get home by 11:00 – BUT we didn’t take the road into account. It was 1:00 before we arrived home – was the movie worth it? The children loved it but that road is a ‘horror road’ at night and in the dark!
How that road can differ. It’s always long, rough, bumpy and tiring – at its best when you are at your best. But when it’s late and you’re tired the road seems to beat your body. Long ago I learned to ride with the bumps like horseback riding and it usually works well but at 1:00 in the morning, when we’re all tired it just seems you’re unmercifully thrown around and I feel the road will never end.
Finally – after what seemed like hours – we reached our hill. Bill, poor darling, stopped the Jeep to put on chains. We’ve been using chains on our hill for a month now. Our road is impassable without them.
We got up over the first steep hill alright and then got stuck in mud. The more we tried to get out the worse it got. I shuddered to think of poor Mother having to get out and walk anywhere at that hour in the mud. I remembered noting that everyone else’s lights were out as we passed. We had been the last ones over the road that night. Mother could never walk up the mile to home.
Bill tried and tried. The Jeep got ditched – once more grind, grind and slowly – ever so slowly inching along – hooray! The Jeep pulled out – it was OUT – and we slowly, ever so slowly crawled HOME – and tumbled wearily into our beds – so thankfully!
I hesitate to take Mother out again!!
August 27, 1959 Thursday
*Note: No wonder our children don’t miss TV – we have the real adventure and real excitement with us every day – we don’t get it vicariously from TV
Mother’s eyes pop as she sees all the excitement going on all around her. As she remarks, “People here in Alaska are busy!” In Anchorage there’s road building going on, roads being widened, new skyscraper hotel being built, Anchorage docks under construction, new Methodist College soon to open. Yes we Alaskans are busy people and Alaska is growing right under our eyes!!!”
Then when we come ‘back in’ on our Jeep road – a new kind of excitement takes place – you can feel it all around you before you ever see it – you know this is it! — The romance and adventure of early pioneering. The men back here seem to change when they leave their city jobs and take over the roles of early pioneers – which is what they are!!
As soon as you come down over the first switch back past the end of Eagle River Road you are in a whole different world!!!
Bill got his moose hunting license and bullets!!
August 28, 1959 Friday
*Note: Went to town – two days in a row for first time. Sharon was so tired. We had showers – what would’ve I done without them?
It’s strange – I guess it works both ways –
Yesterday someone told me how lucky I was that we could get out to go to town and we are I know and that the children could go to school – true – I feel we’re lucky – She said “Many people have to pack up and take off to strange lands, teach their children” – BUT in some ways if we could support ourselves it would be easier. Bill would be home all the time, he wouldn’t have to tire himself commuting back and forth, could be winterizing the place now and would get to bed early – we wouldn’t have to worry about “the road problem” as we could stock up for the winter and would only have to go out for supplies etc. once a month!!
True, the wives would get so lonely but I too am isolated and don’t even have my husband home.
I prefer doing it this way and we had no choice as we couldn’t have homesteaded way off somewhere. BUT I think I’d like it if it wasn’t for the children. –
There are pros and cons on both sides for sure!!!
One tree near Pollard’s has turned gold already and it’s beautiful – but how well I remember how quickly they will all turn – autumn in Alaska is short lived and the snow soon falls after the trees turn. All of the fireweed has turned and is blowing – yes, summer is over! Winter is on its way!
Oh – it was cold last night.
“Termination dust” was on the surrounding highest mountain peaks when we came home last night from town and the trailer and hut were COLD – just a slight prediction that winter is on its way!!! – Please wait a little longer – I cry to Old Man Winter – and so do many others.
The trailer warmed up quickly it’s so tiny and has an oil heater but we couldn’t get a fire going in the hut – and it was so late we just climbed into bed!
The hut hadn’t been heated for two days and nights and it go so COLD I woke up at 2:00 and couldn’t go back to sleep it was so cold – at 4:00 I got out of bed and covered all the children and built a fire. We just have to get a wood supply cut and under shelter. It’s a slow process by hand and we don’t have an electric saw or the electricity to use it if we did –nor the TIME, TIME, TIME –
Finally at 5:00 I had a rip roaring fire going and it was time to get up so Bill went out and cut some wood. What a marvelous little heater for only $12.00!!!! It heats up the hut in minutes but we will have to get another oil heater to use too for the winter.
August 29, 1959 Saturday
*Note: 10:00 A.M. Bill went to get the plower (cultivator) at Donnelley’s and is working on road on way home.
As he says, if he could just have two weeks at home to work but by the time he commutes back and forth every day there isn’t much time left – already it’s pitch black outside soon after he gets home.
I never knew it could be so utterly black – I went outside the other night to get ‘our potty’ and couldn’t see at all – why, only a few months ago it was light all night – this is Alaska – never-ending change and never the same!!
As I write the fireweed blows by the window in soft, fluffy gobs!
V. I feel like shouting – We’ve done this
September 1, 1959 Tuesday – Mildred’s mother flew back to Los Angeles
September 2, 1959 Wednesday
Yesterday – the day you left us –was the longest day I’ve spent here. It’s still cloudy out and yesterday it poured – you’ll really appreciate California now. (I could use some sunshine too!)
I’ll be relieved to hear you got back OK but I don’t worry – I know you’re watched over!
I’m sitting here going over our accounts.
Bill talked to ‘Jeep Man’ yesterday and he agreed to let Bill refinance it – we’ll do it next pay-day! He also called about tractor and is to call back today.
[I’ll keep] my fingers crossed!
We quieted Wards with 12.00 – now it’s only 90.00 – and only 3 more [payments] on truck. I’ll keep you informed.
Bill barely got home last night – road was so bad!
I’m tired of all this and will count days until December.
Loved seeing you!! You’re a marvelous sport. Wish it had been more FUN. The day will come!
Will write soon. This is only a note to say we love you and miss you!!
September 3, 1959 Thursday
*Notes: Hooray, hooray, I got the seed today – all 400 pounds of it and 100 pounds for Pollard – we got rye and he got Brome grass. There were so many sacks that the piled up on the back floor of Jeep and on the seat. The kids had a grand time riding on the bags and by time we got to Pollard’s [they were] tired. Sharon had gone to sleep on them!
I’m so relieved to get it. Tomorrow will get plow and will finish with that over this three day Labor Day weekend!! It’s a thrill just to have it – cost $26.00!!
Yesterday I was ready to give up Nursery for certain but today several things happened! Mrs. Pollard says she wants me to care for them [her two sons] $50.00 per month – and Mrs. Goodale – I’ve always wanted to meet her as she’s my favorite Alaskan artist and a former neighbor of Janie’s – remember – thanks to you speaking to Kathy P. – wants me to care for her child. She’s retarded and I hope I can manage!! She starts on 15th!
Mrs. Wooten contacted me and wants to work for zero to begin with! — I’ll write more in next letter! It’s 10:00 and I’m tired!
I went to doctor and had a COMPLETE physical exam – everything – pelvic, blood test, cancer smear etc. I am slightly anemic but otherwise fine. He gave me a prescription for that. He says I’m healthy as a horse!!! I liked him very much and will take Sharon next week – (other is all better and I know I caught cold!)
September 6, 1959 Sunday
*Notes: Glorious clear, sunny day. First light frost last night. Red letter day for two reasons. First Bill is really plowing today and I kick myself for not having any film.
– (I’m going to make menus and lists galore) – so that I’ll have ingredients for recipes handy (no running to market here if I need one thing etc.) – also want to plan quickie meals and yet very nutritious – we’ll need to pack in every vitamin.
Secondly I drove for the first time down one night and out and back! I honked and honked the Jeep on way down to trailer [our 2-wheel trailer parked at the bottom of the mountain] – I was so proud and RELIEVED.
Our mile is still muddy but this is – believe it or not – third day of clear weather and the road has dried out considerably – and no need for chains SO – I decided to try it – I still had more census to take and load to take to Nursery [at the log house in Eagle River] –
EVENING – A gorgeous evening follows a gorgeous day and I realize I’ve been depressed lately because I’ve been in tight cramped quarters for so many rainy weeks – and no view at all through the teensy hut windows
— Ah today though has more than made up for all that those weeks lacked.
The very air has been marvelously clear after the rain and today seemed even more lovely than yesterday.
Other people thought so too as they trek to the highways in search of outlets that can’t be found in the city – many have come down our Jeep trail to explore the unbeaten paths but the lower homesteaders turn them back before they reach our road – once again I’m glad to be on our mountain!! [Bill would drive out of the valley on the Jeep road at these times with his teeth clenching as he muttered, ‘damn Mickey Mousers’ as he sped up, forcing gawking ‘tourists’ into panicked reverse to the nearest pull out on the side of the road they could find.]
There were three cars turned back from Pollard’s today while I had coffee with her!
I just returned from a short walk down to Bill – the children are tucked in early tonight to get a few extra winks before school starts and I am once again alone with my thoughts!!
— As I returned up the hill from his plowing and saw the cheerful smoke wending skyward from our hut chimney and knew all was well and snug inside I had a marvelous sense of accomplishment – Oh, how crude to any outsider – but to us – well, as I look at the first home we’ve made in the wilderness and trudge happily crushing soft, rich dirt clumps beneath my feet I feel rich – and I feel like shouting – We’ve done this and I feel rich indeed!
The sun was setting and the sky was a mass of vivid orange tonight above the purple mountains that form Sleeping Beauty above Knik Arm and the clouds were purple above the orange sky. – Oh to paint and be able to capture this scenery –
It’s cool but nice – so nice to have these few days of sun before winter – Indian Summer for sure and how the children reveled in it!!!
(Magic) Precious Moments
I take time off to [nothing more written here]
*Notes: All week I’ve been taking census and have it almost completed now. It’s given me a chance to meet my neighbors – each one is so different and each one looks on their homesteading differently – yet, each seems happy and satisfied with what they are achieving, have achieved and their dreams they have for their future. All are workers each struggling and working to overcome their individual homesteading problems.
To me it’s fascinating – I, like them, have one thing in common – homesteading and the fact that each one is glad they’ve done it and in spite of all wouldn’t exchange their lives – hardships and all for any other life anywhere in the other 48 states. We like doing what we’re doing and Alaska is a part of us now!!! We may gripe sometimes, fuss and fume but we will never give up until the land is ours and our dreams are fulfilled!!!
September 8 – 11, 1959 – overview
*Notes: School started and I started to get the Nursery school ready at the log house to go great guns starting October 1st after the Ericksons move out.
This week I have the two Pollard boys. Fred is on double shift and goes afternoons. Cindy – the darling – has finally started school and how ready she is. She comes home dimply and happy and how glad I am I did this so I am there to greet her and hear her first reports of her first glorious days at school. It will never be quite the same again!! She goes from 9 to 11:30 A.M. so I’m kept quite busy – four of my own and the two Pollard boys. Next week the little Goodale girl will start.
I’ve decided to have 300 booklets printed telling about the Nursery and I’ll distribute these. I’m also having some signs made – every week I’ll do a little bit more. I have so many plans and hope it will go over well.
I want to maintain high standards. I’d rather have a few children and care for them will rather than to have too many and not be able to do a good job.
On the first school day enrollment was only over 300 pupils this year. There are 26 teachers and six Quonset huts for extra classrooms. We need a school in Eagle River!!
We get up at 5:00, leave home on the mountain at 6:00, and get to the Nursery at 7:00. Children leave at 8:15 that go to school. Cindy comes to the Nursery at 12:30 when she is done at school and Fred leaves at 12:15. The others get back to the Nursery at 4:15. Pollard comes at 6:00 and we leave soon after but must go to the store etc. and children haven’t gotten to bed before 9:00 P.M.
Must get home earlier this week! Such a change for all of us to go out every day and will take some getting used to. This week I’ve left all house work and gone to bed very early.
September 12, 1959 Saturday
*Notes: Another glorious autumn day!! Oh, such a beautiful morning and so much to do at home. I decided to take a walk over to the edge of the canyon first and then do work. Here I sit at creek hours later – still no work done and I don’t care. This is a perfect day and I will not spend it inside!!
I called everyone over to see a wonderful flat spot close to the canyon edge with trees all around it where I’d like to build a cabin – everyone came over.
*Notes – Review: No money until pay day. Had to make payment on tractor or would have it taken back. Jeep broke down – at least $200 to repair it and can’t do it or even make payments. Took tires etc. from station wagon to fix Jeep truck – Bill got it running and we rode in it for three days. Two or three of us have to sit in the back out in the open and exposed to elements. All got colds. Better now.
Bill got lumber from Wells in return for helping him and is building connection between the hut and trailer.
Nursery school seems promising. Got quite a few drop offs this month. Got furniture painted yellow. Bill brought home folders Friday. Ericksons move soon – want to get more children and log house will be there if we have to move down.
[a line written on the back of this sheet of paper] other’s nerves and many times nobody
September 15, 1959 Tuesday
I did get your letter you mailed at terminal – on my way to Anchorage to mail one I wrote and that’s why I didn’t mention it.
Thanks so much for your generous offer!! Would like to take you up on it but as I sit here considering all I wonder if you could come in March and April. (Already have two more cases for you –!!). I could get more.
Please send kindergarten [nursery school] furniture but by boat! I am writing this from [the log] house.
Today I brought ours and Pollard’s (I’m taking care of) to school but only John remained all morning – others only stayed to register and then left so I’ll have to charge Pollard more. I’m paying off $ we owe them!
We sent for a small oil stove – four weeks to come! – so much more to do and winter almost here – we have frost every night now!!
Yesterday [September 14th] – finally – Bill finished plowing took 12 hours and planted!! It’s done!! Hooray!!
I got Ford wagon out of garage and will use it myself. Sent for seat cover for front. Will fix up Jeep truck and sell!
Now Mrs. Wooten wants to help me here – but I can’t afford anyone yet or regularly and as I figure won’t have trouble getting out [from homestead back to log house] until snow falls –
We’re splitting rent ½ and utilities ½ until October 1st with Ericksons. We paid rent today! And will carry utilities after the 15th.
So they can verify they lived here until then. I’m posting signs of Nursery around and will have ad in paper and signs for street made.
Now since getting your letter I wonder – could you come in March and April? If you could stay until June I could go back for a visit! As I see it if you could come then we might be very wise to move out October 3.
Bill and I are on edge and he barely speaks to me – we’re nervous with one another – and will be more so before December!!
We need a BREAK but can’t lose land!
No, could you come March and April for sure and could stay here in house and be here for children in case I didn’t get OUT!!! – [down the mountain]
Break-up is awful but if we could wash here etc. and you were here it would be easier. Children could remain here during week — By then school should be set up or not, if not who cares?
As I see it!
If I could move out October 3rd
Advantages (1) could handle here alone and wouldn’t have to hire anyone (2) could winterize up there weekends gradually and forget out house and all til next summer! (3) easier on Jeep and US (4) could fix truck here and sell it here (5) could save on storage costs for 2 months and would be furnished here for you in March.
Ericksons are buying front log house of Pryde’s – she wants her mother to come up and if I do get a lot of children she could help!
Answer me now – I haven’t discussed it with Bill as I just now thought it through after getting your letter!! Luv, Me
Also give kids a chance to rest and get good start in school!!
September 15, 1959 Tuesday
Received your nice long letter today – thanks! By now you’ve received my latest and nothing much has changed.
Children are starting second week of school. Both Fred and Cindy are on double session until school addition gets finished. Cindy goes at 9:00 with John, Linda and Jeff. She gets home at 12:30 and Fred leaves so Sharon has company all day. It makes a long day but both Cindy and Sharon take naps and it helps!
Cindy got a real bad cold and I’m having her sleep in the trailer for now. We’ve sent for an oil heater but it will be three weeks at least before it arrives. We’re having glorious autumn weather – sunny and blue skies to make up for cold, wet spell. Thank goodness!
Bill went moose hunting yesterday and saw a big grizzly – it ran right past him! (no moose)
This is a quickie as I expect Ericksons back soon. They paid half of rent and utilities for this month and expect to move 27th [of September] to Janie’s. Janie has never mentioned it and I’m not supposed to know.
I’m having folders printed to distribute and also one $12.00 sign made – but gosh, no money.
It doesn’t help now that I’m handling things except I know now how badly off we are. IF we can just hold off two more months then we can save, save, save BUT golly I’m so worried and sick about our financial state. We look back at all the mistakes we’ve made – real estate etc. – but it doesn’t help. Honestly, Mom, I can’t and don’t feel we’re wrong to homestead. It’s so worthwhile – we’ve got to make it.
We paid Blue Cross, Spoerry and $25.00 to Tuck [road building tractor owner] (he’s been nasty and we had to sign a contract plus interest) so we had no choice and then $25.00 for Ford and heater (cash) about $75.00!! So no Beneficial Finance, Jeep, tractor, NY life etc. etc. etc. etc.!!!!!!!!
I don’t want you to give up your coat. God in heaven knows you deserve that!!!!
Well, Ericksons are home – she has to go back to P.T.A .and they’re getting dinner. So, I’ll close. We do need money but deserve to lose vehicles – but oh, Mom that land – after such struggle.
Goodale girl started today – 50¢ per hour – Love, Me.
September 15, 1959 Tuesday – from Bill to Mildred’s mother
Since Mil wrote we’ve been talking it over. She’s been so busy during the day, and so tired when we get home, that we haven’t had much time to figure things out. We’ll mail this now, with the understanding that we may change our minds and write you something different next week.
I’ve been trying to re-finance the Jeep through the Credit Union here at work. There’s no use trying to fool you – you know how things are. We owe $625 on it, and can only borrow $450, and that only by paying about $40 that we’re behind in our present Credit Union payments. I’ve lost all pride in asking you for loans – you already own everything we have – but if you can send us $300 more I think we can get things straightened out and reduce our payments so that we can pay it back.
I’ve found a place where I can get used tires for the [Jeep] truck, and I intend to fix it up and take it to town as soon as I can to try and sell it.
As Mil says, I spent last Sunday and Monday discing [sic – the fields], and she followed with the seeding. So by Monday night it was all planted and what a relief. We were beginning to wonder if it would ever get done – but now it is and there’s one less thing to worry about.
You’ll hear from us next week. Love, Bill
September 18, 1959 Friday
I may go to Anchorage this afternoon to see about insurance etc. Mrs. Wooten would come over if I do (you know me I hate to leave my children at all) but Goodale’s girl isn’t here and I’ll put mine to nap.
Oh Mother if I don’t write forgive me – I’m not happy – I haven’t been and can’t be since I found out our dilemma. It’s just ‘getting the time in now that’s all’ – maybe the joy will come later.
I feel as if I’d been drained of all emotion – I feel always like crying – it’s too bad.
Bill and I never see each other and when we do we don’t talk – I can’t help it. I’m worried and Oh Mother, I’m heart sick. I feel such a failure at everything and my heart bleeds with pain.
I hate to try to start a nursery school – especially since I’ve named it Happy Time – when I feel like this.
We sent for an oil stove but it hasn’t come. I put Cindy and Sharon in the trailer in one bed and Bill or I take turns sleeping on the floor on a mattress there. Twice this week I’ve gotten up at 2:00 A.M. or 3:00 A.M. to build a fire in that Damn hut to try to get warm. Twice I’ve gotten up at 4:00. We have to get up at 4:45.
I’ve taken a total dislike to Pollards and feel we can’t trust them.
Oh Mom honestly if it wasn’t for that land and my crazy mixed up dreams I’d throw in the sponge and say the HELL with it all. Come June I plan to sell all we own – except personal things and rest and have fun.
I’ll never again do what I’ve done – NEVER. I don’t know what I will do but not this.
— What a letter – I told you it was useless.
Kids are all fine now. Cindy and Sharon do take a nap here. They are all so good!! – And deserve much – they’ve worked for their homestead!
— (I couldn’t give it up) but will Bill and I ever find our way back?
So many bills – no fun – no companionship – we never see each other – Oh Mom –!!
I’ll write later – this is no good! I feel wonderful though – peppier than ever – and all – just sick inside where it doesn’t show (or does it?)
Love Me. Tell C. and C. I’ll write later and give Charlie and Sandra XXX. I hope Charlie is fine now!
September 20, 1959 Sunday
*Notes: September is almost over – trees are absolutely gorgeous – gold and shades of green – and me without color film! Autumn lasts such a short time, probably be all fallen by next week but leaves are just now turning here [homestead] where most are already fallen below.
September 21, 1959 Monday
*Notes: Jeep broke down!! Oh –! I feel responsible – I drove out today and Bill stayed home to work on connection between Jamesway and trailer. I was in high spirits and felt cheerful then wham, bang –
September 22, 1959 Tuesday
*Notes: I walked OUT to Pollard’s (ran) to ride out with them. Bill and kids remained home – I had to go out to open Nursery. Painted nursery furniture yellow.
September 23, 1959 Wednesday
*Notes: Had ten children all told today – quite a merry circus. They were all very good though and the playpen, shelves, and chairs look nice painted yellow. Really felt like I had a nursery today!!
— Oh what a ride home!! We had to ride in the ‘Monster’ [Jeep truck] – Bill robbed station wagon Jeep to get the Jeep truck running – this can’t go on. John, Linda and I sat in back – cold – and at those hills – oh my, looks a hundred times worse. We sat on seat from Jeep wagon and hills so steep – it slid from under us and it was all we could do to stay put!! Seemed steeper tonight than ever – in dark I guess – really scary – but oh mountains look pretty – out in the open like that. Poor children – what a day they put in and such darn good sports every one of them. I love each and every one.
Washing machine [at log house] overflowed – clean clothes washed twice – what a day! I’m going to bed!
September 25, 1959 Friday
*Notes: The end of this week – thank God, Cindy and I have colds – I feel like HELL. But at least tomorrow we stay home – we don’t have to go over that bumpy road in that miserable truck. Wonder of wonders – home, home, home!!! ?? It’s Home to us!!
Oh, that our Jeep station wagon hadn’t broken down. It was pouring rain tonight and the windshield wipers wouldn’t work and the heater wouldn’t work. Pollard was thoughtful and took Cindy and Linda back to their house with them. It was ten before we got them – had to go to market, get oil, etc. etc. and drove so slow – I had to hold Sharon – no room – I didn’t charge Pollards for today in return!
Carrs [homesteaders] stopped us on way home and gave us vegetables from their garden!!
September 26, 1959 Saturday
*Notes: Have a miserable cold. Have cleaned trailer today and baked almost all day. My it’s good to be home today. Now I know how Bill used to feel when he didn’t want to go over that road again on weekends.
September 26, 1959 Saturday
Dearest Mother and Family,
I am very distressed today. Last night I told Bill, “Tomorrow I must write Mother a long letter – it’s been so long since I’ve written. I wrote a letter a week or so ago but it was so blue and discouraged that I decided not to mail it.” He said, “But I mailed a letter to Mother Wednesday.” I said, “You couldn’t have.” Come to find out – Tuesday when he was home he found the letter all sealed and ready to mail and thought I’d forgotten to give it to him – so he took it and sent it.
I had decided not to send it and to wait hoping I’d feel better – well, maybe it’s just as well as now you’ll know for sure how I felt and that I did want to write but couldn’t feeling as I felt! Things are not better – worse than I ever could have dreamed (well, not really) but financially worse!!
Tuesday we were in better spirits. Last weekend Wells, the homesteader who intends to homestead that high land across the creek, was using our high road to see if he could cross to his place above Easterly’s. He had Jeep troubles and asked Bill to spend several hours pulling him to the Jeep road with tractor. Bill is getting smart and said for $10.00 an hour! He agreed! Now this Wells character owns a lumber yard so Bill said how about lumber? So Monday before he could change his mind Bill collected enough lumber in trade to build our connecting entrance way between the Jamesway and the trailer.
Last weekend he moved the trailer alongside the hut and will build a door on the side of hut! I must tell you this. I’d been making piccalilli – he told me to put all breakables in hut before he moved trailer – which we did. But I still decided to remain in trailer to watch things. As he moved it over rough area my forgotten picallili slid from the stove off to the floor spilling all over. The berries we’d been picking slid in the other direction and you can imagine the mess!! Luckily I’d just washed the floor so scooped it back up. We’ll eat it tonight on beans baking in the over!! (extra flavor)
Last weekend we picked the high bush cranberries (I don’t like) because I tasted Joann’s jelly made of half high bush cranberries and half apple juice and it’s really delicious! I also tasted her concoction of low bush cranberries and banana jam! I’ve since made twelve jars of first and six of latter!
Here I am trying to save and pinch, pinch, pinch every penny!!
Then Tuesday Bill decided to take a day of sick leave (had cold anyways) and stay home – no interference – and build the connection. So proud brave me took all the kids and drove out myself – even down our road!! I did it several weeks ago for first time – alone – and even came back. I had to finish that census!! — It was scary but I did it!!
Well, I got out fine and had nice day at Nursery (Happy Time Nursery) and then started home at 6:30 – never leave Eagle River until 7:00 – home at 8:00 then dinner, and bed at 9:00!! – Up at 4:45!!!! Isn’t that awful?
Anyways felt so efficient and proud – Bill was to meet me at bottom of the road – but Jeep sounded awful. I drove home anyways – Bill heard us coming. He rushed over – and checked oil – all gone – and he said motor shot. This happened before and cost $199.19. He drove home anyways then and you could hear “the motor grinding itself to pieces!”
It sits outside now and the wheels are taken off and put on the truck (how about a children’s story about the truck) and we’ve ridden in Jeep truck this week – rain and shine! We must completely rebuild Jeep! See why I haven’t written you?
Tuesday night I was sick – Oh Mom, how much of a beating can we take?
Wednesday I had artist’s daughter all day and Pollard’s too – Fred all morning. (Business is getting good and I love it –it’s so cute and I’ll tell more of it later!!)
We got up usual time Wednesday but can you imagine how we felt? Cindy’s cold had gone but was back again – we’d borrowed an oil heater for hut from Wooten’s until ours arrives and it won’t work – and heater in trailer quit too –
Oh Mom –!!!
Well, heater didn’t quit until Wednesday night so it was warm Wednesday but I had told Bill to keep Cindy in but he got so busy and she cried so he let her play outside and Thursday she had bronchitis!
I’m getting ahead of my story!
We decided finally at breakfast that he’d stay home and fix the truck – he was all for moving out this weekend – I say WE WILL STAY UNTIL DECEMBER 3rd!!
— OR BUST
We left children in bed and I decided to brave bears and moose and go to Pollard’s for a ride out. By then it was 6:15 and they leave at 6:30 – so I got Smokey and we ran down mountain and to there at 6:30!
Bill had made me promise not to walk back – it’s dark now by 6:00 – and pitch black when we get home! I had intended to anyways BUT finally stayed at Erickson’s [at the log house] – slept on cot in my clothes.
I bought lemon yellow paint for school and painted crib, swing, two sets of shelves, old high chairs all yellow – it’s beautiful – I am thrilled with whole thing. That night I painted but next morning woke up with such fear for family riding in that truck.
They arrived at 7:00 – dirty and tired – and with headaches. I always wash and change their clothes before school!
We’ve ridden back and forth ever since in the truck – some have to sit in back. Bill put Jeep seat in back and it’s cold and no heater in cab either. Bill takes Ford to work. It can’t go on, I know!!
Today I have flu and fever and wanted to stay in bed but had to get up. I let this place go all week and have so much to do. I keep stopping – work then write more. Wish I wasn’t too tired to take notes but will write you instead.
Please now send back all letters and this – it’s my only record and I’m determined – a book I will write!! — I will –!!
First week of school I went to bed at 9:00 with kids –now I can stay up until 10:00 – I make lunches, do dishes and sweep out place.
I do ironing and wash down there [at the log house] and baths etc.
Last week I had a time at the house. I had one woman bringing her boy when she went to a club meeting in the afternoons – and Janie’s children at 11:00 to 4:00. So I hurried to store for lunch makings and then decided to be doubly efficient and put load of wash in while gone. – (Dryer broke down our first week there – wouldn’t it.)
— P.S. I’m finishing this in bed Sunday night! I’m determined to get it in mail tomorrow or else!
To get back to my story! Came back and found it had overflowed and wouldn’t stop even after I turned water off. It was at least five inches deep in back hall and was running into kitchen – on into dining room and living room!! I didn’t let children know as that would have only added to the uproar.
To make it worse – on Monday I had washed two bags and brought all the way back to homestead to hang up. Tuesday morning hung one bag but too late so left other in Jeep and told Bill I’d do it when I got home. That night I stayed at Erickson’s (they move into Marshal Pryde’s October 1st). Well, he didn’t hear me and piled dirty clothes into it and brought it down to log house Tuesday and I dumped the whole bag onto the floor and saw too late was clean clothes I’d washed – the machine overflowed on top of whole mess!!
I had to wring water out of clothes on floor before I could push water out the door – what a mess!! Probably how I got cold. Took almost an hour to clean up D – mess. Had six children at the Nursery that day.
Haven’t advertised yet. Got pamphlets Friday – and signs made and will put up when Ericksons leave. They leave half hour after we arrive in morning and same at night. I make children stay in back room while they’re there and always have house perfect when they get home no matter how much of a mess during day is made.
But they paid half rent and utilities and I’ll miss that.
So much more to tell but I’ve worked all weekend. Yesterday cleaned trailer (a mess) and baked beans, apple pie and two raised (from scratch) coffee cakes. Today cleaned hut – (mess too) and made stew!
Oh Mother, last night Bill finished the entrance-way and now they’re finally connected. You’d never be able to imagine the difference!! As John says, “It’s now like a house.” The children were thrilled — and not a bit to go to log house days but thrill over every improvement at homestead. First time Sharon went through it she beamed and said, “Here I go!” There are two steps from hut then hall and then trailer (used flap cut from hut for roof of connecting way).
I’m so pleased! It’s really cold out today and now wind is blowing and it’s raining. Snow almost left the high mountains four weeks ago when we had real nice weather but now is back and real low and deep on high mountains and high hills – we’re sure it won’t melt again.
We had several glorious weeks of autumn but then wind blew all leaves away and now we expect snow any day.
Moose are back and each day for last four days there have been one or two on our homestead. Sure sign winter is coming!
Bill went hunting three times but no luck but saw a Grizzly – I’ll tell later.
Pollard got a bull moose on mud lake on way home from work – another story.
Still have Pollard boys – Jeff is cocky and I don’t like him. Fred is a darling boy! – More later. I just check off each week balance from road work money. We now owe them $45.00.
Will continue this soon – so much to tell. I tell you there’s little time down there [at log house] – go, go, go.
I’ll write out schedule – take care and pray for us as we’ll try to stick it out until December. Oh Mom, we love you all!! XXX US.
September 27, 1959 Sunday
*Notes: I sit here in bed writing by our kerosene lamp – just think in another few weeks our neighbors will have electricity – but not us!!! Friday some of the poles were up and others were all laid out!! That’s, once again, what we get for coming up on the Mountain. But still it hardly seems fair. We tried to get above the 500 foot line [government’s requirement] and they didn’t – still they get electricity and we don’t. Bill has explained it all to me and I know they put in their applications ages ago and they’re all on one road but still – –
The HUT is surely flapping in the wind tonight. The wind is whistling – my, it’s strong – I’m glad Bill is here. He’s outside working on the Monster. Whew, that was a big one!!
Thank God he completed our entrance way last night. It’s wonderful – we just walk back and forth from the trailer to the hut and as the children say – now it’s like a real house!!! It does make all the difference in the world!!! John helped Bill all weekend and is so proud that he helped build it!!! The children thrill as I do over every improvement made on our homestead – and what a great improvement that entrance way is – and how very appreciated.
It’s been sheer hell this week riding for all of us in that bumpy, cold, smelly truck and coming home to a trailer with no heat and for days no heat in hut. We had to heat trailer with oven and then walk clear around the hut to trailer and pitch black outside!!
Now they’re both warm and connected – sheer heaven tis true.
Tonight is homey – and neat and clean – despite the wind rattling the canvas of this hut.
I bet the snow will be much lower on the mountains in the morning and by the sound of the wind and the feel of that cold air which I feel through this (insulation?) – sounds like the ocean outside – I wouldn’t be at all, all surprised to see snow on the ground here.
So many winter clothes are in storage!! No money to get them out – Oh, God, Oh God!
Tonight I feel as if we’re living in a cracker box for sure!
(I’m quite a picture tonight.) Last night I burned my only nightgown (who even would think I would reach such a state) trying to dry it in time to wear it to bed – so dug out Bill’s long underwear – wore old sweater and Bill’s T shirt over it because sweater was shrunk and left a gap in the middle – cold.
Tonight I had to add a wool kerchief to regalia as wind is whistling around my head. Quite a glamour get up – yes, yes, yes!!! Ha, ha, ha!
September 30, 1959 Wednesday
Hi – Just a quickie note
Walked down to the mailbox and got this nice letter – I feel much better, but can’t imagine why.
I went to store yesterday to get bread and on way back Jeep smelled hot. I stopped and smoke was coming from under hood. I opened hood, after a struggle, and there was a fire –!!
Some man was going by and stopped and told me to throw water on. He disconnected wires – and pushed me back to nursery.
It was some wires got crossed and started a fire. I hated to tell Bill – poor darling.
We had to stay overnight here [log house] for first time. Bill slept on floor wrapped up in throw rug – he worked on truck until midnight – I slept on bare cot and put all four children on mattress on floor – what a night. We borrowed one blanket from Erickson’s who have moved to Janie’s over the weekend – but not enough to go around.
He’s working on truck now and we’ll go home tonight. We’re trying to stay at our place until December 3rd so can be through with it [fulfill residency requirement for ‘proving up’]!!
Carrs stopped by one day this week and gave us a hundred pounds of beautiful home-grown potatoes – that was so nice!!! Real windy today – has blown all leaves off. I’ve been painting nursery yellow – so pretty. Do have artist’s daughter all day Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 12:00 – 4:30 – it helps and still have Pollard’s and Vanover, Braendahl etc. by the hour. Love, Us
October 3, 1959 Saturday
*Notes: Ice forms on water outside overnight, now soon will have our own deep freeze (two months from today)!! [Residency completed.]
I have been too tired at night when we get home (it’s always so very late – usually 8:00 or after – one night 9:00 and Friday 10:00) to write or do anything but get dinner – do dishes and fall into bed and I mean that quite literally. My stupid cold has persisted all week – finally two days ago Bill administered me several kinds of pills and they seem to have taken effect – for today I sound like a bull frog but the pain in my chest has subsided.
All the kids get so tired and it’s so cold now for John and Linda to sit in the back of truck but will keep on as long as we possibly can – and go from day to day and week to week. Here it is October 3, 1959 Saturday – now two months to the day!!
Last night on way home Bill told me he’s only gotten one signature on loan approval. Two refusals and one still not sure – must be approved by this coming Tuesday – oh dear God, how I pray – I wish I could go to church tomorrow – right now I’m going to ask Bill to come in – maybe he’ll take us tomorrow – maybe God would answer our prayer if we went out 28 miles to church – He knows the faith I have and hears my prayers but still –
It’s our only answer. They’ve given Bill until this Tuesday only to pay $650 on Jeep or else bring it in. [I believe destiny for the Lloyd family was in motion here at this point in time.]
What can we do? I feel that if I’d only known this summer I could have done something to help earn those payments.
Well, no use in going back now – we’ve done best we can – heaven knows we buy NOTHING – right now we need so much – I wear Bill’s long underwear to bed, rather than buy pajamas – Linda needs school clothes and Sharon’s jacket is completely worn out –
Last night I felt so discouraged. We’re so close to the end and yet these last two months are just as important as the other five!! We must complete the seven months before May 1960 and we’re so afraid if we leave before then we won’t get back up here in time!
We were discussing this as we bobbed along in the truck on the way home when all of a sudden we caught sight of an animal slowly crossing in front of us – at first glance it looked like one of the many porcupines we see but on closer observation we saw it was a beaver. We quickly knocked on the rear window so John and Linda could see it – as we expected it to get frightened and scurry off – but it just came toward us.
Bill thought it was blinded by the truck light – but NO, it was just busily going about its business. (Bill was so surprised because he’s never seen a beaver before and expected they’d frighten easily!) We’d noticed for the last few days how they’d been cutting down enormous trees with their sharp teeth and hauling them across the road to the river where they’re damming up for their home. Bill explained how they eat the bark off the trees, that’s their only food and use the rest for their homes. He says that they’re building their home on the river underneath the water where it won’t freeze –
Well, right before our very eyes this beaver with his bright beady eyes and glossy brown coat – walked over to a big branch and dragged it right back across the road – in front of the truck – to our complete amazement!
Somehow our worries dissolved as we enjoyed our true life adventure – such an experience for all of us – and such a sight for us to see on our way home from school and work!
This morning (early) I had quite an experience too. Smokey was barking furiously – I went out and looked all around and didn’t see a thing – I had to go to the bathroom and went and all the while felt eyes upon my back. I turned around to go in and my glance fell upon the biggest moose I’ve ever seen standing up on the top of John’s fort – on the hill behind our hut – the enormous animal looked larger than ever standing statuesque, silhouetted by the sky – it was a very magnificent sight and I imagine the moose had been there all the while. We stared at each other a moment and then I hurried inside to get Bill to come out to see – by the time he got to the door the moose was gone!!
On the way up mountain last night I looked out our truck window and saw the spectacular Northern Lights in the sky, above the hills, behind our homestead. They were more beautiful than I’ve ever seen before! – So green, great splashes of green against the dark skies, ever-changing in size and form and color as we gazed aghast at the beauty.
Mind the trip home? Not last night – beavers to see, Northern lights lighting our way HOME, HOME, HOME –
My Home, My LIFE is on our homestead.
October 3, 1959 Saturday
*Notes: Today is one of splendor and fall beauty – the air is crisp and cold – the mountains are covered with snow the trees are bare and the breath of winter is in the air.
As darling Cindy says to Sharon on our way home at night – “Better watch out, Jack Frost is out now to ‘nip’ your toes, nip your fingers and nip your nose.”
He is for sure. John ran inside to show us a piece of ICE – I am a crazy one, I love the snow – and could welcome it if we were prepared!!
October 5, 1959 Monday
*Notes: Spent at homestead. Bill got back to Nursery very late. I was a little bit worried but he told me he had had a chance to work late but only stayed one hour later because he knew I would worry. He will work late every other night this week. It’s the first opportunity he has had to work overtime all year. It will make it late getting home.
Then – late as it was – the truck wouldn’t start. I drove Ford and pushed truck – after half hour it finally started. Meanwhile saw gorgeous display of Northern Lights – most beautiful I’ve ever seen – so green – and came to a point in middle of sky – the center. Then later after this spectacular show was completed the lights kept appearing – green – green – in big flashes.
Oh, I was so glad good old truck started – I like going HOME at night. I hate (no, not hate) dislike the road but I like going Home. Hard to explain but true just the same.
October 6, 1959 Tuesday
*Notes: Mrs. Wooten came – I visited school. Bill insisted we spend the night at log house.
*Got loan! – Just in time. How much this means to us and just goes to show you that we’re watched over. Thank God for it.
Now will just pay one enormous lump sum each month to credit union instead of numerous payments. The total will be less and we can budget our money. Most important of all – our debts get paid and we won’t lose Jeep and tractor.
Bill working overtime until 11:00 P.M. Jeep broke down, truck too, which we’d been using last few weeks and too cold for children to ride in back. Took leave [from residency on homestead] * Having completed five months.
September 1959 Journal
*Notes: Lived on homestead May through September four months [of the required seven. April 1959 did not count toward residency because we were living in the trailer stranded in Pollard’s field at the bottom of the mountain. September would have been the fifth month.]
Started Nursery [at the log house] so children could go to school and we’d have place to stay if had to take our leave and for after our residency completed
September to October 6, 1959 – Ericksons kept [log] house until October and we paid half rent and used days as Nursery. We arrived at 7:00 A.M. and they left at 7:15 A.M. They got home at 5:15 and we left at 6:00.
We never stayed overnight [at the log house]. They can verify this! (I stayed once when Jeep broke down and I came out for Nursery and would have had to walk last mile home alone.) Family was on homestead. I never was late once and children didn’t miss school but that one day!
October 7, 1959 Wednesday
*Notes: Spent night at log house. Had wanted to go home but Bill got back so late and I had children asleep and hated to rouse them from warm sleep to that below zero ride in unheated cab of truck and two in back – pneumonia for certain.
[article on Happy Time Nursery from local newspaper]
The Knik Arm Courier, Vol. 2, No. 35 Wednesday, Oct 7, 1959, Chugiak, Alaska
“At last we have welcome news for families where both parents must work and the problem of dependable care for both school and preschool children is a serious matter.
Mrs. Mildred Lloyd of Eagle River has opened the Happy Time Nursery, where a well-planned, inexpensive child care program is available.
Mrs. Lloyd offers weekly, daily or hourly service and is open at 7 am to 6 pm Monday through Fridays. Working parents may leave school age children there, prior to their boarding the bus and arrange for them to return to the nursery after school to remain until their parents return from work.
The program is attractive even to mothers who do not work, but who might like an occasional vacation from the youngsters to do some shopping and visiting.
The care and play is carefully supervised by Mrs. Lloyd being experienced in nursery school work, as well as having served as a nurse’s aid in a pediatric ward.
The children enjoy a play program of stories, music, games and crafts, and naptime is most pleasant in separate rooms all brightly decorated. Snacks and hot lunches are included in modest price.
Most interesting, is the “Pre-morning” classes a kindergarten type of activity which lasts from 9 to 11:30 am.
This is excellent training for the “soon to be 1st grader” who in Chugiak misses an opportunity to become accustomed to classroom routine before entering school.
The Happy Time Nursery is located in the rear log house on Meadow Creek on the Eagle River Homestead Road.”
October 9, 1959 Thursday
*Notes: We’ve decided to tell the Land Office and stay overnight here at the log house until Jeep station wagon gets fixed. We’ll tow it out this weekend.
Bill worked late again. Says he could work tomorrow but – but not as late as must go to homestead and feed animals. Must go to town and get tires for Jeep truck.
It’s been a busy week at Nursery – drop-offs etc.
All things from storage came today and what a mess. My Nursery advertisement went in the paper and I was so afraid someone would come to see the place when all was in such a turmoil. I worked all day like fury – packing and repacking boxes. We’ll take about eight to homestead and store everything else in extra room here at the log house. I am not even opening the couch or unwrapping it – just leave boxes packed one on another until our residency time is up on the homestead.
I hate missing this week on the homestead. Every day counts towards our time and soon it will be so cold. But this can’t be helped. It had gotten far too cold for John and Linda to ride in the back of the truck. The temperature goes down to 28° and that is already too cold to sit in open truck exposed.
I miss our place. It is home and this isn’t. It is a Nursery – PERIOD.
This will give all of us a break and a slight rest.
It’s surprising to me how messy the Nursery gets when we stay here overnight. Darn it. I wish our homestead wasn’t so hard to get to!!
John and Bill are going to homestead tonight and I’ll stay here and finish sorting boxes. I am also going to paint the child’s white table and chair, diaper table, bulletin boards, etc. Got so many Nursery things from storage – and so many things!!
I worked until 1:30 A.M. Mess is cleared in Nursery room but still so much to do. This will be a hard year for all of us I can see!
October 10, 1959 Saturday
*Notes: We are still at the log house. Golly I miss the homestead. If it comes to this I wish I could stay at the homestead all the time. Nursery looks so cute now, but no children. Slow and I hope ‘sure’. Bill got back from town around 6:30 – day wasted waiting for tires!!! Decided to stay here tonight and go back up tomorrow.
Mrs. Pollard stopped by to tell me they have rented a cabin close to school and will move out until summer but plan to return weekends. Boys will care for themselves – so I lose that money.
October 11, 1959 Sunday
*Notes: Snowed * first snow * finally. Went HOME. Oh, how good it felt to know we were going HOME at last. How can that little old trailer and that hut mean HOME to all of us. It’s because we created it ourselves – a home out of wilderness. It’s OURS and the log house isn’t.
Oh, how I’ve missed the view – how I’ve missed our place. As we were loading the truck the first snowflakes fell!!!
October 13, 1959 Tuesday
Please, please send all of my letters back!!! You haven’t, have you? It’s my ONLY record. I haven’t written any notes since I last wrote you – and really should now but I haven’t written you either so if you’ll please send my letters back I’ll write you.
I’ll expect them SOON!
Last week your blankets arrived early. Thanks and they just match the light green I’m using in the Nursery. The chairs came Friday – so cute – they really add just the right touch and we got everything out of storage Friday too – so now it really looks so nice.
I had thought I could put everything from storage in the spare bedroom but it overflowed into the front room and everything was quite a mess but it’s all fixed now. Just the curtains have to be put up and I painted the bulletin board yellow and they still aren’t up.
Bill worked every night last week for four extra hours. The money will surely help but we have been staying at the log house since last Tuesday and we’re missing all that time on our homestead. He’s also working this week so we’ll stay here this week too.
We brought the Jeep station wagon down the mountain (oh, I was scared as I drove the truck out and had to push Bill up the switchback – that steep last hill out to Eagle River Road).
It was about 8:00 P.M. Sunday when we finally got it out. We thought we could just bring it to Eagle River garage but found out he doesn’t do major repair work anymore so it’s still sitting in the driveway.
Maybe I can get Mrs. Wooten over this week to watch the Nursery and I can go in town with Bill – or else we’ll have to wait until Saturday and he’ll probably work then too!!
We really can’t go back and forth now in the truck. It’s far too cold for the kids to sit in back and no heater in cab and windows are out. Of course we could get heater and build something on back BUT if we fix Jeep we won’t have money for both.
The Pollard boys are done at the Nursery now. Their pet, Jeff, is a true problem. In fact, I was afraid of real trouble with him (more later) but so it’s probably just as well. I only owe them $9.32 now and it was $95.00 to start so that helps. Last week I earned $18.00 off of the bill and was hoping to get some money this week!!! Mrs. Pollard has not been friendly lately, in fact at times she has been downright discourteous and rude.
Saturday she blew into the log house here (Bill had gone to town for tires for the Jeep) and I haven’t seen her (dressed all up – fur coat and all) and so very happy and bubbly. She had just rented a house in Chugiak and they were moving OUT!! (After all their talk about never leaving their homestead and all.) She is human too – the drive has gotten her down. They spent fourteen months there. She says they’ll go back weekends. Well, she says woman in front house (land lady) will watch boys and children will soon go all day.
It’s embarrassing to just have Gracie – when people ask point blank, “Now just how many children do you have in the Nursery?” Actually I’m just now almost ready to open. Bill will put my two new signs up Saturday. My first ad went in last Wednesday in our tiny local paper and she gave me a full write-up (and a nice one) in “Shopping in Chugiak” column. I’m sending you a paper.
I think Mrs. Hahn will soon return to work and I’ll have Fritz. I really do need children – regular ones –
Pollard never thanked me or said a word about all I’d done – artwork, stories, wood burning etc. I guess she felt she paid. And that was all that mattered! Actually they distracted John from his reading etc. He loves to read and Jeff can’t – although older than John – he’s still in third grade. He is a foolish acting boy and a trouble maker! I really want preschool children and not older ones!! Pray I get some – !!
Last week I left the Nursery for first time and went up to school to see how the children were doing. John has such a wonderful teacher. She says he is mannerly and polite. He’s an A+ reader and she says he has more – what’s the word – feeling – to his reading than most. (Not correct word and I can’t for life think of it.) She says he slouches (we get after him for that) and needs to work on his arithmetic. He has a Chugiak library card and can borrow books on Friday. He LOVES to read and can read anything and everything.
Linda oh, darn her, her teacher says she’s a nuisance – talks out loud in class, disturbs other children – same old story. She’s OK at Nursery and finally really takes care of her clothes. She’s emotionally immature – her school work is OK.
Cindy – heavens. I didn’t know what to expect. Oh Mom for the first time I heard what I’d always dreamed of hearing. Her teacher is teaching for ninth year but still isn’t thirty years old. She’s wonderful. I really like her. She’s been at Ft. Yukon for two years and comes from back East. She’s taking two correspondence courses and Alaska History at night in Anchorage. I know all this because it was 12:30 and class was over so I went across street to her trailer and she was working on her courses!
She says, “Oh, Cynthia’s Mother – oh, if only all my students were a joy to me like Cynthia is.” I asked if she whispers and talks in class and she said NEVER. “She’s a top pupil – mature enough and capable for second grade work now – eager and oh, so good.” Oh, mother, I’m so proud!
I think Linda will try to do as good as Cindy. Linda should set the example for Cindy and instead it’s vice versa!
Mrs. Wooten said Sharon was terrible while I was gone (she reminds me of Linda the way she acts so bad in front of people) – she’s so good with me. I spanked her hard. Golly, I’ll have white hair soon.
Linda goes to Brownies at Mrs. Hahn’s and all nice girls go. She likes it.
John goes to Cub Scouts and is working to be a ‘Bear’. I took Jeff so he wouldn’t feel bad and never a “thanks”
— oh, people
I am more tired staying here [log house nursery]. Kids sleep together, John on floor in sleeping bag. Bill and I try to sleep on twin bed and neither of us sleep. The couch is unassembled and piled high with boxes! I refuse to fix the room until our time is up on the homestead.
Maybe will have to call HELP to you yet – we’ll see what happens!!!
—write soon, and send letters!! — Love, Mildred
October 16, 1959 Friday
*Notes: We will have missed two weeks’ time on our homestead next Tuesday. I can hardly bear missing one more day. I’ve never missed anything as much before in my whole life – except Bill when we were separated.
That land, the view, even the bumpy Jeep road are all an integral part of my life now – I cannot be separated from it. I must return and soon!
Bill has worked every night for the past two weeks and the overtime will help pay for the Jeep – that’s good. He’s worked twelve hours every day and has been dead tired upon returning here [to the log house]. It would have been too much to go back to the homestead every night even if Jeep hadn’t broken down – but oh God, how I miss it.
AND I’m worried. Against Bill’s better judgment we left the heater on LOW in the trailer. Nobody would know if the place was completely burned down!!
Then too I’m afraid somebody might take our things – Wooten’s stove or ours which sits unattended in the Jamesway hut. I read in the paper this week that there was a robbery at Donnelley’s back there. I’ve been more worried ever since. Of course the Jeep road passes right by his place and ours is a mile of mountain hazardous road off of the Jeep road – a BIG difference but still – I’ll feel so much better after I’ve returned and seen for myself that all is sound and safe! ! ! !
Next summer we’ll have to build a cabin, have electricity and a road we can go back and forth on.
My heart is there – we belong on our land for all time – it’s OUR HOME! ! ! ! ! STEAD! ! ! Tonight we’ll go home tonight – when Bill gets home! ! !
VI. He didn’t know mice gathered food for winter.
October 20, 1959 Tuesday
By now you have received my recent letter telling you the chairs and blankets came….
We’ve been staying at log house nights for over two weeks now. Haven’t brought anything down from the homestead except one change of clothes – in fact, we’re hoping to go back as soon as possible. We have the Jeep at a garage but still not sure of repairs – may need a whole other motor!!
Bill worked twelve hours a day for two weeks and now ten hours a day –
We went to homestead Sunday. Had intended to leave here at 9:00 but truck wouldn’t start – nor would the station wagon – finally at 1:00 the Ford started and I pushed the truck to get it started and then we were off. Golly it’s cold. Sunday night was 40° above zero. Too cold to ride in that truck without heat. On way back here Monday morning we kept taking turns riding in back – and I never was so cold – I froze! It’s awful to be that cold. I had to hold a sweater over my face. Tears rolled down John’s cheeks he was so cold.
Then the big heater wouldn’t work all day in the front room of the log house and I never did get warm – Br-r-r!!! Such is Alaska – !
But Oh Mom, was it ever good – so good – to be HOME!!!
I’ve brought so many boxes up and got all unpacked Sunday night – looks cuter all the time. The children sled outside until I had a big meat loaf, potatoes etc. cooked – then ate and to bed. I unpacked and then went out. It was a full moon and as light as summer time. The snow glittered all over our clearing like trillions of sparkling diamonds.
Mom I went sledding on Easterly’s hill – just half way up the first hill above us – and laugh, oh, I had such fun (more than the kids had, I think).
I hated leaving the homestead Monday. We have to leave the heat on LOW because of food there and I worry over it.
I really might see if I could take the children out of school for two months – Oh, I know I can’t do that. What then?? Two more months – oh, how I worry over that time.
BUT now this is good news. Oh, Mom, we were about to lose the Jeep and tractor – (you know). They gave us one week to raise all the money owed – $695 on the Jeep. That’s when I didn’t feel like even writing a letter. We had a deadline Tuesday or else!!
Then the Credit Union too wanted their money. Bill talked to them and they said they’d soon have a board meeting and see if we could consolidate all – $7,500. The monthly payments would total smaller but would take half our paycheck – leaving us $300 to live on – food, rent, all. There was no choice but to try. All was OK’d and we were to have four co-signers, four who work at the District. Oh Mother he asked the four most likely = one yes, three no. We were sunk all weekend!! I tried not to think about – we were to bring the Jeep in Tuesday or the money. Sunday still one co-signer. Mom, Power of Prayer. I prayed and prayed and prayed. Our prayers were answered! Bill was LED to three men who he never would have ordinarily asked. He’d thought of them as most unlikely to sign and right away they all did. [This is the hand of destiny I mentioned earlier regarding this loan. The Lloyd family’s future turned on the actions of these men.]
By 3:00 P.M. Monday he had the four co-signers. Tuesday at 9:00 A.M. we would have lost the Jeep.
It still doesn’t answer all our problems but they’re all in one payment now except for $10, $15 bills to doctors, etc.
Dentist, trailer, Ford, tractor, truck, garages etc. are paid – and Beneficial Finance and storage etc. etc. and we owe the Credit Union. But it’s a two year loan. – We will be out of debt in two years –
Now we’re working on a budget and oh Mother, we can manage now without the $25 you said you’d send or any money and we’ll pay you $50 a month regularly – not a word now – it’s in our budget and we’ll try to save more on sidelines — $2,700 to YOU. You’re a dear, a darling and I love you! Now you think of you and your plans.
I may come down – certainly during 1960 – my [residency] time will be up for the land – somehow – I’ll be FREE with an Army paid trip coming!!
Now you think what’s best for you. I’m thrilled with the speller and I want us to write – my heart and soul cries out – write, write, study – and leave people alone!!
We’re going so tight – I don’t have any children but poor retarded Gracie. Nobody even comes to see my lovely, beautiful Nursery – it’s a dream place – books, toys and your chairs added the perfect touch!!! I guess it’s not meant to be yet.
Everyone asks, “How many children do you have now?” And it embarrasses me but I don’t care except for money. Gracie pays between $40 and $50 a month and about $15.00 in hourly jobs or $25.00.
October 20, 1959 Tuesday
*Notes: Two weeks yesterday since we moved out [back to log house from homestead]. I miss returning to our homestead. I never missed a place before. I miss the ride – oh, not the bumps – nor the jostling – but the smell of the cold, clean air, the beauty I saw out our Jeep window – the majestic mountains outlined in the early winter dark against the moonlit sky – the creek now flowing smoothly dammed by ice and snow – now breaking down it’s barrier – for a while – soon to run beneath the heavy layers of ice and snow – for many long months to come – too long – but that’s winter in Alaska – long, cold, dark – and beautiful to behold – and on – and on – and on will this road never end?
Five miles an hour – it takes one hour to go eight miles – such a road – but oh, will the beauty still be the same – years from now – when our road is smooth and fast?
Will we see the Mother Moose and her two calf twins – on the lake we pass by – so unafraid? But wait it’s been weeks since we’ve seen a moose – in fact, not a one since a Jeep stopped in front of us and behold a hunter crouched in the road – Could he? Would he? Oh yes – a shot rang out so clearly – and the young bull fell to the ground with such a dreadful moan and groan –
Winter’s meat? Yes, it will help a homesteader through the long winter ahead –
A tear? – a sigh – oh yes you heard me cry – I cannot stand to see these majestic animals shot – dead –
But yet, I wish we had some roasts stored in a cache so high away from the roaming bear – for homesteading is not an easy row to hoe – oh no, – oh no –
On and on will this road never end? It’s already 8:00 – the children – all four are sleeping —
October 22, 1959 Thursday 7:15 P.M.
Just a short ‘Hi’. Bill is only working ten hours now and I’ve been getting children’s meals and then he arrives and another meal to get so – tonight I’m waiting for HIM – so thought I’d write a note while waiting.
Just read your long letter – so nice and informative and interesting. It’s funny how things work out. Now you are money tight and we got that loan and can start paying you back. Thank God. We are watched over – for certain, for certain.
We’re tight too and eat beans and potatoes (Carrs gave us a hundred pounds) but at least we can keep those D – vehicles.
I just finally got truck started. All week it wouldn’t run but today it’s warmed up and now it’s raining and then will freeze!!! Anyways went to the garage to see about the Jeep and called Bill at work and he talked to the mechanic. I’ll know when he gets home. It will cost but we’ve GOT to get it fixed.
Took truck up to get Linda at Brownies and John at Cub Scouts. I feel they need that.
Those D – Vanover boys still don’t like John. Julie came over and told him and that they say “none of the boys like him” and did I tell her. I told her. I told her they don’t even know HIM or his friends etc. etc. and I told her they were impolite and unmannerly to say such a thing and I knew plenty who didn’t like them!
He [John] felt terrible but I felt worse. He must play baseball, ice skate, ski etc. He MUST – we need money for those things.
Oh Mom, it’s not easy to be a child – or a Mother.
They got report cards. Linda got all Bs, John got D in spelling and otherwise Bs. I can’t understand it and wrote her a note about it. She said when I visited school it was his arithmetic and he got C+ in that and all other Bs. I’ll drill him now in that too!
Work work work
I worry over our two months still needed for time on the homestead. Our neighbors – Pottle, Gunter etc. say, “Who will know?” Oh, I hate that.
I say, “We Know! We’re Honest.”
Spring is not good, roads are impassable – mud and all. Remember? Must be November, January, February or two of these. Unless you come up in March and April. I hate to depend on that.
Still no children – just Gracie. I don’t feel she’s good publicity.
She’s a moron but easy for me! She does say twenty words, plays dolls etc.? But what do others think?
Oh Mom – I want a home and to live like other people. I’m tired of all this mixed up MESS.
Tell C. and C. ‘Hi’ I’ll write Carolyn this week.
You come up in March and April and I’ll go back with you for a month – kids get out of school May 15th. I could –? Love, Your Loving Daughter
October 23, 1959 Friday
Enclosing your scarf – I never wear it. It just looks like YOU – please wear it again. Also Bill forgot your letter so you’ll get two. No new news! It’s rainy today.
I’m going to try and take the children out of school for two months.
Seriously could you come up for two months or would it completely throw you?
Joann just was over – told me not to tell a soul – nobody – They just sold 80 acres he homesteaded in Mountain View for $150,000.
But Jerry got three Fs and is on three week trial at school.
Oh Mom – she’s so interested in our place I’m suspicious and sick until I get back up there!!! Love, Me
October 25, 1959 Sunday [from Mildred’s mother]
You two wonderful people – coming through this hectic struggle as you are. I’m with you all the way through it. What a time it has been I know. In that way it was good that I saw the wonderful spot you are fighting so hard to hold. If I hadn’t seen it, I fear I’d think it wasn’t worth the struggle. Now I feel, like you, that the great wish of my life will be to see you get that title in your land. If your land was on the road like Vanovers’ your struggle wouldn’t be so bad, but placed where it is on top of the mountain, you’ve had double trouble. You’ll win, I know you will. Like you, dear, I believe that you and Bill must have been guided to those men!
But there won’t be enough money for you to live on after paying the Credit Union – and paying them is a must. I’m so thankful to the Union and to the men. But oh damn – what about future car repairs? You can handle it – if bearings don’t burn and the tires don’t blow. You know what it means to homestead if anyone does.
How I appreciate the offer to pay me $50 a month, honey, but I couldn’t take it right now. You need it. I’d rather you’d pay off the doctors, dentists etc. first, please. I sent the money ($10) to Dr. Mahoney and $5 to the Rose Shop. They are paid so cross them off the list. I wrote note and told them I was to mail them as I left Alaska on my vacation, but forgot! Sent day before you wrote. (Paper is so thin – I’ll not write on both sides.)
Thanks for the check enclosed with the letter. I will accept this one, but do not start trying to send $50 regularly – yet. It can’t be done! You have to eat, you know. I’ll be so happy the day you are free of debt. Perhaps this great need for money will be a spur to your writing. The best is always done under pressure and under adverse conditions.
I promise I’ll settle down to an hour a day for writing. Will type notes over for both of us! See that I could find time for “Spelling” gave me idea that I can find time for the things I want to do badly enough. So can you. Let other things slide at least one hour a day! It is hard at first, but all those who are writing say they do it “every day or else” – it doesn’t go on! Maybe that is why the children are not being sent to you [at the nursery] yet. Use the log house if you can – for a writing haven. Let the women in town wonder and whistle. Ignore them. I learned to in Melrose!! [Where they lived in Boston area prior to 1945 move to Los Angeles for Bea’s health.]
Get all the little bills off instead of thinking about me. I do appreciate the offer. I paid the Seaboard Finance and now only $40 to go on that – two more payments. Gradually it will go off too.
Tell me about the Log House. You’ll hold that until school is out, I hope. Tell me please what you mean about trying to take children out of school for two months. Is it because of the dangers and cold in traveling, or because you can’t swing the rent? Tell me details – truly and honestly. How I wish I were near to help until you get this all straightened out – So far so good.
You need another stove? Tell me please. I’m relieved about the money – I know you were worried to death over it all – you didn’t “have to write.” I was “sick over it” on this end and helpless to help. It was awful. I also “felt” and “knew” a change had taken place last week before the letter came on Saturday! I didn’t know how it turned – but I knew our prayers were answered. Let’s not stop and never forget.
When, or if the time is right for the children to come, they’ll come. You have prepared the spot – so we’ll see. How I wish you could relax enough now to see the need for writing stories and articles. Make winter articles for children too. You can’t when you are over-tired and over-worried I know, but try – you’ll lose yourself in it. Try an hour a day and see. Thank God for little Gracie. Even that $50 helps on the rent etc. How I hate financial problems. I’ve had enough of them – so many I could easily retire on $1—a month and like it, perhaps!
Anyhow let me know more details about your plans. Even $15 to $50 is good “extra.” That was idea I had so many years ago – to get started in something which would bring in the “extras” which always crop up. Remember when I thought about ceramics and writing for that – but I didn’t carry through? Well we can try again! Build a few extra crafts for children as they grow up too. It’s a great place for that up there I guess.
I think all the people up there either hoard their money – or haven’t got it, like Mrs. Hahn. Goodness knows she has her troubles! Many of the women know they can’t make enough at outside job to pay babysitters and have profit left too. You know that. It’s not personal, you know that!
You are finding out what I found out and feel that one must walk alone with one’s family. Take people as acquaintances. That is good. Children must learn how to live in world of today. But you find very few, trustworthy friends as life goes along. Everyone learns that, if he faces the truth. But you need casual contacts to know what goes on. That’s why the casual contacts of church and schools are good. One must have exchanges of ideas for the sake of the family.
Bill tested his men at work and learned a lot even if embarrassed. I hope and pray for it. Am I awful? He is a great fellow Mildred. He’s a wonder.
Told Carolyn I had letter when I went down to baby sit last night while they went out to dinner. Charlie was at work – until 6:30 – so she told me he had had a letter from you. I said “Oh I know. She said she felt in the mood, and hoped you wouldn’t mind.”
“I should say not. Why would I,” Carolyn said. “Don’t know when he’ll answer it. You know Charlie and letters! He’s as bad as I am about them! He’s not very sentimental I guess.” I said nothing, but remembered her two trips east – and no mail – and I guess he didn’t write either in return, you know. Well no more was said – she had to hurry to get ready – and he dashed in and out with her.
But today I saw Charlie and his sentimental side – open wide – but said nothing to emphasize it and make it dangerous ground. I was so tired last night that when they came home at 12:00 – though not late, I stayed all night. This A.M. he informed us he had a movie projector at home and would show some films. And what do you think they were! You are right. Of you – of Charlie – of family life back east, of grandmother – Joan – the farm – the sailors from Harvard – Kenny and boys skiing. They were all excellent. Carolyn hadn’t seen most of them. I wish you could have seen them, but you will recall them: with Aunt Lillian etc. when on their trip, you and Charlie with Betty on farm. Some in sunporch at Perkins. We all enjoyed them – and Charlie did very much – and the children – but Sandra wandered off half way through and wanted to jump rope! Charlie J. glued to it all.
Carolyn oohed and aahed over them too. She didn’t mind. Probably never connected the Sunday morning films with your letters to your brother – but I did and know enough to keep silent and not point it out to her. Or did she? She’s a Fox and doesn’t show or tell all she feels!
Then he worked in yard – all had lunch – I typed all afternoon – they went for a ride to L.A. zoo on train or something (I had too much on the spelling lists). Then while Carolyn was getting dinner Charlie came in from garage with a large box full of snapshots to look over and sort (!?) But he threw out very few just from the service etc. — But there he had all the pictures of you and home and even a few of his own little boy on the pony pictures but not in an album. He looked them all over. There were heaps and heaps of you – all ages – you all did have fun, Mil. How easy to forget good things and harbor things that aren’t important. But Charlie’s love for sister and family shone over the whole scene – as he showed them off to us and children – and put them all back, but a few street and sea scenes. Again I kept “mum” – but couldn’t help thinking about Carolyn’s murmuring. There were some very beautiful pictures of you, Mil. She enjoyed them (!?) but underneath I wonder again what she really felt. I know she must have connected this second series of family and friends pictures with your letter to him. No matter what she says or thinks – it stirred him to old memories – and a little of that does no harm. I do declare Carolyn is a funny one – can’t always tell what she is thinking. Certainly she shows little sentiment for her family – though she does love her father and mother. Anyhow you may rest assured, he loved hearing – whether he admits it to Carolyn or not. But personal letters and correspondence are a “hot subject” between them any time!
Charlie is working like a mad one. Let the man go who was supposed to bring in business – which he didn’t do! So he has been working long hours. Puts money back in business and Carolyn has to operate on the $600 per month for house and family. She even had to pay for that $300 car out of that money. She has been griping and moody over it for months too – even the trip to the desert that weekend, gasoline and everything. So she has to go tightly, too. She was caught unprepared to handle her budget. She had spent too much on the children’s clothes and her own up at that Altadena Shop and downtown. You know she judged by high prices. But for past year, since Charlie put an accountant on the job and house on income – it’s been different. She thinks she should have more money. He says: Hey? Others do it, so shall we. Hasn’t got a dryer yet – or a rug. The divan is shabby and showing through to white. She boils over it – but hasn’t got it in her budget to do it over. Their dog has been expensive – shots, at hospital while they went to desert – was hit by car – in hospital two weeks – distemper and in hospital. But they love the dog and he is a good dog.
Right now Carolyn is sore because she hasn’t any money for clothes. It’s true too. She never seems to have anything to wear to go shopping – or church or anywhere – just doesn’t seem to have anything but summer clothes – so what she’ll do I do not know. Tinting here hair cost $10 a month – that is all she has done for herself. But like everyone else just living is expensive. They don’t go anywhere or do anything either. Of course they ought to be able to manage, but they had car expenses, insurance etc. Insurance comes this month and burns her up I guess. He says OK – we’d better drop some?
So you see – if it isn’t the old tractor and Jeep – it’s something else to keep the home fires burning!
Makes me burn and burn to think about those three men who wouldn’t sign for Bill. They must have had rough times – or they may have yet. How I hope to see the day when Bill can show them for what they are. Good men who did sign!
Which takes me back to money. Before I close I’ll put the $25 you sent to me with $25 I have, if I send to have lawyer search for patent rights on speller I want to include it in new publication of it. Then if anything comes of it you can be a partner to it!
But no more now. You need it for rent toward log house or something, I’m sure. I want you to have stoves fixed for the hut, or other things to keep warm! How can you have Jeep engine repaired and pay me too? You can’t and you know it. Oh, Mil dear, thanks for wanting to. You can later on.
Right now I want to say I do love you and Bill and appreciate your wanting to do this now. Soon, perhaps, if he continues to have over-time and gets the small bills all paid off. Two years isn’t such a long time when you think of the “end” after that!
Just you all keep well for my sake. I haven’t any idea what is best for me to do. Wish I could know but right now I have enough on my mind about the work, so I’ll trust it can be delayed until Xmas vacation at least.
Am going to try to get out of buying that jacket. Don’t need it as much as I’d like it. Was foolish idea. It’s two o’clock in the morning and I must turn out the light.
Loved to hear descriptions of the moon on the snow and you on the sled. I know you were too worried to write for those weeks – I yearn for news. Can just imagine how things are looking with new additions. How I wish it were in a cabin, warm and cozy. That will come too. But oh it gets cold there. Why did you choose the land of ice and snow? How’s the going up and down in the snow? Who else dares take it? How go Donnelly’s feud?
Please take care. Don’t worry about the two months, dear. It will work out somehow. Why worry when you’ve time left this summer? Don’t understand that part. How I wish I could help! Will do anything I can, you know that. Time will work it for us if we pray and trust to God’s guidance. Worry won’t help at all. Wish I hadn’t seen that D — movie on that first night in Alaska two years ago. It haunts me and bothers me. Take care of yourselves, please.
One of the Caltech boys brought this address to me from a magazine at house – knowing about the road – Jeep trouble. These new tires are guaranteed to do any job like that. They are new type for putting on Jeeps. Write for information: “Low-Pressure Tire Kit for Jeeps,” Terra Engineering Co., Inc. P.O. Box 254, Lexington 73, Massachusetts. What do you know about that? Be sure to write. Perhaps together we could get it.
By the way – Charlie and Byron’s picture project has fallen flat – returned and not put on market yet. Wish they weren’t tied up in it, but they knew it was a gamble. They aren’t crabbing, but yet may be a good thing in spite of it all, but later. It’s as risky a game as homesteading!! You may have to have a new Jeep or a mule yet! Or a burro!
Tell me how you feel, please. No “buts.” Don’t let people bother you. Parents and P.T.A. are giving one fifth grade teacher a nervous breakdown with their gripes and meanness. They are same everywhere. They are all centered on themselves only – but so am I – on “us.”
Hope box arrives soon with those few decorations.
Honey don’t give up the Log House. I’ll help and Gracie and the $50 you were going to send to me ought to do it! Then get out a children’s story for Elsa to criticize when you have a chance at her help. Really she means it. If she can make “14” books so can we. Tra-la-la! Then you can pay off the loan – Tra-la-la. Dreams!
No more now. My eyes are closing. I can think of nothing bright to say now. Love and kisses to one and all. As always and ever, Love from Mother
October 25, 1959 Sunday
*Notes: The snow has melted and it warmed up some.
Staying here at the Nursery is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’m uneasy here – I cannot shake the feeling that I should be on our homestead. Will I lose this? Is it because I know we haven’t completed our time yet?
It’s more than that, I know. I want to be up there. I miss it terribly!!
Friday, Bill told me that the Jeep is going to cost so much to repair that he has decided to get a motor and put it in himself. It will take at least four weeks for it to come and then another week to put it in.
Then too he will be working overtime through November –
So – we decided as long as we were going to be here at the log house anyway we might just as well unpack all the boxes and put the rest in the attic so we could make use of the room.
What a job! Will the day ever come when we’ll be settled somewhere?? Pack and repack – over and over. I feel so silly, packing and unpacking here, in this house for the second time!!
What’s more I don’t want to live here and I haven’t wanted to make it home-like.
Well, it will be better and the day will come when we’ll live on our homestead, not to move again – travel, yes, but not move – to me, there’s a great difference. That will be HOME, forever more. My heart is there now and I wish I were there.
It went so against me to unpack here!! Well, Sunday night it was finally done and we have a cozy room even if we do have to shift everything in the room at night, so as to open the couch-bed!
We’ll be here for over Xmas and can try to return there weekends. Yesterday the truck wouldn’t start, so we couldn’t go up! The hose on the water pump was broken. I was so disappointed! Certainly the fuel has run out and my plants will be frozen! Oh God, I want to go home. I miss that place in the same way as I missed Bill when we were separated that summer of 1957. I couldn’t enjoy myself no matter what! I feel that way now.
Well, the children can partake of Xmas activities, school play etc. and then, after Xmas – will try again. (Bill put the sign up for the Nursery!)
November 1, 1959 Sunday
*Notes: I called Emerett, the Eagle River School principal today to ask him if I could keep children out of school from November 6th to January 1st. He was to call Juneau and check and I’m to call him Wednesday.
It’s not a perfect solution but is the best. We started this business and we must try to complete it on our own!!
I really think I can manage.
(1) It will be easier on children not going back and forth to school.
(2) During November and December – with holiday approaching and all – they won’t miss as much school as would later.
(3) Bill won’t have to worry about the responsibility of four children and me.
(4) He can stay here [log house in Eagle River] if he has to.
(5) No questions of my living here – I’ll close up this [log] house
(6) – Many more
November 3, 1959 Tuesday
Just a few short lines to send tomorrow to clarify my note of today. First of all, I won’t know anything definite as to whether or not I will be allowed to take children out of school or not until tomorrow or Thursday and I’ll write you then to let you know the latest developments. As you so well know I can’t relax here or plan anything until our time is in. We haven’t been back to our homestead for going on three weeks – when we left we left the heaters on and nothing locked up. All my good jewelry etc. is there and I’ve been worried sick. My plants, of course, will be frozen and heaven knows what else is ruined – frozen etc.
You see when the truck too broke down we were without any four-wheel [vehicle] and Bill refused to take the Ford back there for fear it too would break down. It’s just a good thing we didn’t sell it or he wouldn’t have gotten to work. Last week he thought he’d repair the Jeep but with overtime and all he doesn’t have the time and we have to get back in there.
The only choices we have are for me to go back with children or you to come up. That would be the last thing – the trip would be expensive and you’d lose money. I have a trip all paid by the Army coming to me and I’d rather do that – perhaps when school is out, we’ll see.
I too have another move in June – getting all this stuff out of here when this lease is up. I can’t see that it would benefit us to hold onto this house during the summer. I’m happy that next winter we’ll have a road and electricity but as you say one jump at a time.
We’re having the mildest weather ever. We have had rain off and on and it’s 32° and 28° above. I heard on TV this afternoon that the Army has had to bring all their men from Ft. Greeley, that were there for winter training – survival and all – up to Eagle River Glacier. There’s no snow and they said how fortunate they could train them there.
I think too – my closing up this house for two months will quell talk of my not homesteading right. Now that we have lived here – dispute could be made –
Well, I feel better about this – if the school will cooperate. As I plan it, this Friday is November 6 – to January 1st. will give us our time – and two days of Thanksgiving vacation plus one week of Xmas – actually they will only miss three weeks of school and I’ll tutor them.
I get lonely here too. I don’t see anyone. Erickson works – Mrs. Cook across creek works etc. I’ll feel better up there for now.
Mrs. Wooten has taken Gracie – I really got to the point where it was hard to take care of her – she’s depressing and no company for Sharon. The nursery just hasn’t caught on and I haven’t felt like doing much with it when our own plans have been so indefinite…..
John wrote you last night – all on his own. He did it all… Must close – I’m defrosting refrigerator. Take care and get more sleep. Love, Me
November 4, 1959 Wednesday
*Notes: Those precious, darling children. I just told them that tomorrow I’d find out for certain if Mr. Emerett had gotten the OK from Juneau for me to teach them at home for the time remaining we need on the homestead. (Oh – I can hardly wait.)
I explained to them that at first I’d hesitated to take them out until after January because I didn’t want them to miss the Xmas music, play etc. at school but that I felt they’d really miss less actual school work during November and December than in January and February. Also I told them they’ll have vacation during Thanksgiving and Xmas and so won’t miss school during that time. – Then too they’ll have Xmas and Thanksgiving and their vacation time up there. I won’t give them school work then and they can enjoy our homestead in the winter.
Our holiday this year will be simple not elaborate but it will be a wonderfully happy time if we’re together and we’ll finally be on our homestead for Xmas!!
Each one – on his or her own said – John, “Mother I want to be there. Even though this house is nice and all it’s not comfortable to me – even this bed, for instance, it’s not like mine.” (Old Army bed at homestead and cot here) I know how he feels – I feel the same way.
Cindy says, “Oh Mommy, I like the homestead – you made it pretty and fixed it up and now it’s home.”
Linda too expressed herself, “Mommy, I wonder each day what the homestead looks like – is it bare of snow, I miss it – I want to spend our holidays there.”
— I feel that way too. It’s HOME, HOME, HOME.
Bill just went after the Jeep – I hope and pray we’ll find all is well up there!! Oh, how I pray. We could never – oh, well, I pray – I pray – I pray!
November 6, 1959 Friday
Back to The Homestead.
*Notes: Well, this is the day – I took the children out of school — — At least now we can feel we’re finally on the last lap and I really think that after January I will be able to enjoy this house during the week, once I’ve stopped being so worried and we will try to return to the homestead on every possible weekend!
November 7, 1959 Sunday
Yesterday I took the children out of school. At first – last week – they were upset by the idea but now have not only accepted it but we all really look forward to studying together. I brought back scads of school books etc. I figured out that they’d actually only miss thirty days of school – because of one week Xmas vacation and two days at Thanksgiving. Up there, too, the holidays will help break up the stay. So that’s all settled and I am relieved.
But I surely had several very upsetting experiences yesterday!
First off – the day before yesterday, it snowed and the streets were very slick. Forty cars were stalled on Eagle River Hill and even the school bus turned around and came back! There were several accidents and I got scared to drive – (I hate the children going on that road to school – there are so many bad drop offs).
Well, I had to go to see the teachers etc. but really felt something would happen and it did. The car started swerving on ice and then swayed from side of the road to the other. It was uncontrollable and I knew we were going to crash. Luckily no cars were coming – we went to the side of the road – into the ditch – out – and in again HARD – I thought it would turn over. Poor Sharon was so frightened and I caught her as she was thrown to the floor.
I called Bill. There was a gas station and tow truck service across the street. I almost feel as if my guardian angel pushed me there off that icy road where it was safe. I wouldn’t drive home and the car is at the garage – NO DAMAGE to us or the car. Bill came home and drove me up to the school.
I’m so upset by John’s teacher and the whole damn school up there. I’m glad I’m not having them go back and forth [from the homestead]. They’ll get rested and do better work at home and the teachers surely wouldn’t understand their tiredness etc.
I told you she said John was a squirmer. She says now he’s a contortionist and wiggle worm etc. She threatens to return him to first grade for a week if he can’t sit still like a fourth grader and Mom she will too. She has pulled his hair once and I saw her shake Jerry Vanover until his teeth rattled. Is that right? I’m so upset. I think teachers lose the respect of their pupils when they resort to such things.
There’s a man teacher there who all the children say pulls the children’s hair and takes them by the ears and slaps their faces. The boys have to tiptoe into the bathroom and if they stop to comb their hair he breaks their combs in two. He sounds like a SADIST. He teaches fifth grade and John lives in fear he’ll get him.
Now John is not discourteous and his school work is good it’s just this, she says she’ll tie him in his seat. How far can teachers go? I never heard of such things. Do you believe it? I know there are so many kids so awful and yet she went to principal about John and two others!!!
I’m furious and I talked to him and he cried (he never does) and says he didn’t realize. Why didn’t she send for me or talk to him??
Well, I must go! Kids are awake! I’m sorry I let off such steam to you – but who else? If all goes as planned – by 1960 I’ll be through with living on the homestead – and children will feel better and maybe act better at school. But they love school and their books and that – above all else – she must not change. [Referring to John’s teacher.l Love, me.
November 8, 1959 Sunday
*Notes: The Last Lap of Our Homesteading – I Hope. Eight weeks to go – will we make it? And what adventures are in store for us now?
Snowed all day yesterday and was still snowing when we went to bed last night. Today dawned blue skies, bright sun – a gorgeous day.
We’d hoped to get an early start but Jeep wouldn’t start. Errands to do and it was 3:00 P.M. before we left [log house] and already getting quite dark.
Well, off we go – everyone wishes us luck and hopes we’ll ‘make it’. I remark with an optimism I wish I felt – “Oh we will, don’t worry.” After frenzied preparations – extra blankets to take, all the school books, warm clothes, film, food a plenty (after all, who knows, we might get snowed in) we’re OFF.
Arrived at Jamesway at 6:15 — three and a half hours to go to store and drive the 15 miles home! Thank God and I’ll never know how we made it. I told the children – and I really believe it – that God pushed us all the way.
Bill had me and the kids get out and walk up the worst hills and each and every time I prayed he’d make it – and he did! It was a miracle. There was a sheet of ice under the snow, which had never been plowed. Several times the Jeep stalled and we had to back down a ways. I could feel Sharon next to me tighten her tiny body up – can’t say as I blame her – and I’d tell her, “It’s alright Daddy’s driving” and she’d relax!
Such faith and I’m surely glad Daddy was driving. (He’s an excellent driver.)
I’m relieved – so relieved and all was just as we left it –
November 8, 1959 Sunday
I HATE to go to bed but I’m so tired. Tonight I just plain hate to go to bed.
Honestly Mom, I just don’t know if I can bear to stay here alone now that I know – – – – –
I’ve worried over coming back up here and Bill not returning every night. I’ve wondered what I’d do if some stranger came – I don’t know how to work the gun but John made a darn mean tomahawk yesterday – a really clever one (peeled a birch pole – split it on the top and wedged a flat smooth rock between it – then took a leather shoe lace and bound it in very neatly) and all his own idea and no assistance from anyone!
Well – I worry over what I’d do if the children got sick. Everyone but Thomas has left back here. Even Eklunds have moved out. It’s very frightening and terrifying.
So I put it out of my mind except once in a while – but it’s much too frightening to dwell on – so I pray – oh, how I pray and trust God that we’ll be cared for.
Really, Mother – even as I packed today – food, clothes, the children’s books and all – I really didn’t believe we’d get up here. We haven’t been up for three weeks and the snow has really piled up. It snowed day before yesterday – last night – well – we have all told about ten inches of new snow up here.
But yet – do you know what Mom? I didn’t dare think that we mightn’t make it. We had to. We couldn’t carry food enough to last with Bill not coming up at night.
Bill wanted to plan what we’d do if the Jeep wouldn’t get us up. I said we’d see when the time came but we had to get up!! Yet I dressed the kids very warmly, thinking we might have to walk – yet, dreading the very idea of the snow and cold.
Today it was already getting dark at 3:00 – the days are getting shorter!!
We had planned on leaving the log house early but the Jeep wouldn’t start and then there were last minute errands etc. etc. – so we didn’t leave until 3:00 P.M.
It had been a beautiful day, after snowing all day yesterday. Blue skies and all – and it was lucky for us. Tonight the moon was bright and guided our way.
We got out at Bill’s insistence and walked up the first steep hill and all the big ones where the drop offs are so bad. It was cold but at least it was bright.
I must tell you here about one little episode.
We were almost home and we had to get out and walk up all those last steep hills. Poor Sharon was miserably cold and although I had her hand she kept slipping – it was sheer ice beneath the snow – and being so tiny and all – her boots were filled with snow and her feet were freezing – I was real worried when I saw it. She said “Mommy when I grow up I’ll never homestead. I don’t want to.” I said “You don’t have to you can live on the homestead with us.” She said, “NO.”
Then she later told Bill that she was going to live in California when she grew up – where it never snowed. PERIOD – and you know, I don’t doubt it. I can see her living there. She’s such a little lady and loves so to dress up and all.
Well, as I say maybe I’d be driven away from here after all – not by moose, bear, mud, steep roads, walking in and out, lack of a cabin or warmth, water, bathroom, electricity
Yes, mice. You know how I detest them, abhor them, hate them and how FRIGHTENED I am of them.
Well, I haven’t seen one yet but their signs are everywhere. As I said we’ve been gone for three weeks but I see the mice have been here. How horrible. Isn’t it bad enough? Do I have to have this too?
And to make matter worse our dear, sweet kitten has decided to stray. She was gone this morning and we couldn’t find her when we left. We inquired at all the neighbors and the kids searched everywhere – no kitty and now when we need her so.
I saw the first signs in the kitchen drawers and I was sickened – at how I hated to clean those drawers but as a brave homesteader – I did!
Then they had been in the closet where I keep my cake pans etc. – everywhere – still I didn’t scream or screech.
BUT oh Mom – this is awful –
I left everything so clean and neat and our bed was left with clean sheets, blankets and a bedspread on it. I pulled the covers back and brace yourself now – there under Bill’s pillow was the neatest pile of stuff I’ve ever seen. Pieces of macaroni, a cake crumb – a little bit of this and some of that – all put together into a neat pile – I guess it was their winter supply. How sickening!!
I went to the door and screeched for Bill to come – he came running – and was really mad when he knew it was just concerning mice – but still he knows if anyone does how I feel about mice. He really understood better when I showed him the pile and explained to him how I came about seeing it so suddenly. He didn’t know mice gathered food for winter. Honestly I didn’t want to go to bed.
That’s where I started this letter. I wouldn’t go until Bill came in – and then just couldn’t relax. I kept thinking that the mice would be adding to their food supply. All night I lay there – half awake listening – just like I used to listen for bears when we first came up here last May. And now MICE – some difference but to me – equally terrifying.
November 9, 1959 Monday
*Notes: First Day of School at home for the children.
Jeep wouldn’t start. I tried to start it while Bill pushed with the tractor – no use. Came in for breakfast – still could scarcely eat, remembering mice. Bill so discouraged – finally decided battery gone. Damn it! Remembers Pullen and his garage? We’re not prepared. Lack of money.
He really wonders if I can stay here as he has to drive the tractor down hill and try to catch Thomas going out this morning and if no luck he will walk out – get battery and return Wednesday with battery.
“I’ll manage,” I tell him and hope and pray we will.
So much to do today – yet I don’t want to miss one day teaching the kids, could so easily become habit to skip it.
Ice inside the trailer – imagine! Melted and what a mess.
Icicles inside passage connecting the trailer and hut – more ice on the floor – melting – messy – and drip drip down walls – it wasn’t finished.
Golly – I had to chip ice away with a ski pole. I washed the floor, did dishes and helped all three do their studies – they’ve been so good. Tried to interest Sharon in coloring – ha, ha! Called recess at 1:00 – sun has been out and already gone. I knocked snow and ice off the trailer and hut roof.
Found two more water containers – thought only had one and a half until Wednesday. All were frozen solid last night but one has thawed. Still must go easy on water.
I pray oil lasts until Wednesday.
These are notes, must go put a meal on and call recess over.
John has built an igloo for himself – real looking – entrance and all.
We must have two feet of snow up here!! Later I’ll measure it for fun. John has made a snow house for Cindy – More later
This time I’ll write every day. I have to laugh how we tried so hard to get kids to school and try not to be here in coldest weather – and here we will be here on the shortest day of year – Oh well! Wouldn’t really be complete unless we’d homesteaded in Alaska in winter too!
10:00 P.M. — Dead tired! But a good satisfying day. Children were in bed by 8:00 but we did do school work after supper from 5:00 to 7:00. Then I read them stories by a man who had lived in the wilderness. We read about getting lost in a blizzard and we felt cozy and warm.
We had some snow ice cream and it tasted so refreshing and good – first in five months and how well the children remembered. They also say that cocoa and mosquito repellant will forever remind them of the homestead.
We had a good supper and I baked a blueberry pie and oatmeal cookies. Tomorrow I will cook a tiny turkey and baked beans are half-cooked. Good smells make this place seem homey.
Golly, I’m tired – mice or no mice I’m off to bed. I wonder where Bill is and hope he won’t worry. I wish I could tell him ALL IS WELL. P.S. Children did so well
November 10, 1959 Tuesday
*Notes: 3:00 P.M. – Already getting dark – thought I’d put Sharon to bed so I could have some uninterrupted time helping the children with their school work but if I do she’ll sleep too late, so I’ve swept out the hut and shook rug – put it down on their bedroom end and got her playing there – how long will it last? For the moment all is quiet. I sneaked in here to write a few lines – while John and Linda are studying for a spelling test and Cindy is doing her numbers 1 – 100.
Just finished dinner at 2:00 and am trying to do the dishes. It takes so long heating water and having to dump it outdoors – haven’t enough dishes to wait –
Has been a beautiful day but they haven’t been out today. We spent extra time this morning on science – all three did it – was interesting. John is going to make a scrapbook for science.
I can’t find gas for the lamps so have to use the two kerosene lamps Mother sent us and candles. It’s dark enough I had to light the lamps at 3:00 P.M. It makes for a long evening. They’re done – will write more later.
November 13, 1959 Friday
It’s 1:00 A.M. I couldn’t sleep. I slept later this morning and haven’t had any exercise. Bill went out like a light. He’s exhausted from working such long hours and all – so I thought I’d take this quiet time – it’s really a rarity now with all four children home – to write you a coherent letter for a change.
I don’t feel coherent. I feel erratic – I went up to homestead last Sunday night [8th] with every intention, naturally, of setting up residency. Bill left Monday – more of that later – but Jeep wouldn’t start and it ended up that he walked out!!
I was alone Monday night and was NOT a bit scared. I’m never scared up there. I wonder why. I went to bed – to sleep and never woke up until morning. I’m too busy all day to be lonesome.
Tuesday night the stove went out. I am afraid of cold. The wood stove was not hooked up, so I couldn’t use it.
We’d spent our last penny to get the damn Jeep – close to $200 again to get it out of the garage and couldn’t bring any oil up.
Yes, the stove was out of oil. The hut got cold in a half an hour. I decided to tip the barrel and when I did it started up and ran alright.
Bill got home about one hour later but I didn’t expect him. Wednesday was a holiday but he was to work.
Wednesday [11th] – with the oil gone – I had to go out [to log house]. He had to buy a new battery for the Jeep!! What’s the use trying to budget money? We HAD to have it!
I’m so mixed up about time and all. Our hours are crazy. He hasn’t been able to take me back up the mountain yet – so I lost the three days I put in and we’ll have to start all over – still need two months up there.
Next week I think – as long as we’re so mixed up already – I’ll take kids to the dentist and start officially November 23rd! Oh, darn it. I’m so darn sick of all this!! I can’t seem to do anything I want to do and I’m always stuck Here at the log house or There on the mountain.
As for your questions!
Bill will stay here at the log house and come up one night during the week and Sunday to bring us water, oil and food. Pleasant? No, but will have to do. He’s working long hours and can’t commute all that way. The government only requires me and the children to live there. I have all the books from school and the children have been good about doing their lessons. No, I will not have the Jeep and even if I did I wouldn’t dare drive it.
Sunday [8th] night when we went ‘back in’ the children and I got out and walked up every steep hill and I still think it’s a miracle our Jeep ever got up that night!!
I’m tired now, so will close. Don’t worry!
November 16, 1959 Monday
*Notes: Sunday night was warmish and the wind was blowing. Not cold. No moon. Our second trip for the week.
Sharon coming up steep hill – sitting in trailer [2-wheel trailer being pulled behind the tractor] – Except look at those clouds! Dark clouds hanging low over mountains. “Those are night time clouds. “Look, one is shaped like a boot.” John, “See the other is shaped like a rocket.” LATER – Sharon remarks – “Oh, Mommy I don’t like homesteading” – (once she gets to the homestead she loves it) but gets discouraged trudging up steep hills – her tiny legs find it hard going. Children excitedly exclaim over rabbit tracks in the snow and a little hole in the ground where the tracks ended.
I never thought the tractor could make it up the mountain tonight – and remembered so clearly what a long way we’ve come and what it was like in the days we couldn’t make it at all unless we hiked up all the way. There is terrible ice building up on the road – a glacier – very bad. We had to leave and get more oil and food up while we can. I have ‘a feeling’ it won’t be too long before we can’t make it.
November 17, 1959 Tuesday
Just a wee note to say ‘Hi’ and tell you that the workbooks and the other two (they’re very lovely and John is busily engrossed in one now!) arrived yesterday. Thanks! I like that lined paper for Cindy to learn her letters on. Thank you!!
I must get to work on their lessons but just wanted to tell you latest. Went up Sunday [15th] to the homestead again and came down [again] Sunday. Will go up again this Sunday with best of intentions of remaining for these last two full months! It’s been too bad these two weeks have been wasted. Bill is working twelve hours again and cannot possibly take me up during the week. He tried to hook up the oil and something broke so I couldn’t stay.
Our mountain road is building up with ice and looks like we’ll have our own private glaciers on it before very long. Even the tractor had a hard time getting up. We walked most of the way to lighten the load in the trailer (we’re not going to even try to take the Jeep up any more) and partly because road is so bad.
This Friday is Mrs. Anderson’s baby shower – my idea and given at Mrs. Gutner’s – so I had to be here for that and then Saturday we’re going to the ski….. [pages missing, have been torn out, only the following remains]
Kids are real good about school work and it’s a full time job for me. I see little of Bill down here either. He leaves at 6:00 and gets home at 10:00.
Must close. Hope C. and C. have a nice trip. We’re having still lovely, sunny mild weather – poor people in eastern states. We have no such storms here. Love, Me
November 21, 1959 Saturday 6:30 A.M.
Bill says, “It snowed last night.” Mom, dear Mom – I wanted to write you a quickie for Bill to take with him so you’d receive a Thanksgiving letter from us. I hope you won’t be too lonely. We’ll be thinking of you all day and wishing you were with us. Shall I hop a plane and come down – hm-m? Wouldn’t I love to. I think of coming so much now – I’ll make it soon!!
Oh Mom, our Thursday will be a terrible one. All my dinner fixings are at the Homestead and we can’t get up. Oh Mom, I’m discouraged. This is the third week for the children out of school and no credit for time up there so far. Last night we packed the Jeep full, took all afternoon to pack, then put all in the trailer behind the tractor [at the bottom of the mountain]. Kids and I walked up steep hills – Oh, Mom, it’s terrible.
I felt no happiness or gladness last night. No moon, everyone has moved out before Pollards. Then our mountain road is a glacier. The ice is piling up – it’s terrible – the tractor slips and slides and can’t dig in. We got half way – I’ll never know how – then had to back up – at the bottom, repack the Jeep and come back to the log house.
Here I sit amidst boxes, not even a table here at the log house to eat our Thanksgiving on. I’ll call you on Thursday. Love, Me
VII. It’s really an almost HOLY feeling.
November 24, 1959 Tuesday
*Notes: Why do we struggle so hard for our homestead on the Mountain? — Here I’ve had the children out of school for going on three weeks – still no credit for living on our land – Obstacles so great – can we, will we overcome these new obstacles?
Yes, yes, yes – we must but why? What is it I hold onto so dearly – certainly not – our humble hut on the Mountain. It’s not this that I cling to so desperately.
No, no, no – it’s my dreams – still so dear, so dear, so bright and untarnished.
I remember when we first filed on our homestead – ah, how great our dreams were then – and still are –
A neighbor of ours was over two years ago when we were living at the log house and mentioned our homestead claim. I felt like a new parent with a brand new baby – beaming and proud – bring forth slides of our lovely one. But all the neighbor sees is LAND. “Aha,” she exclaims, “You’re eager to get hold of this land for speculation.”
“No, no I cry!” – But how can I explain our tender, sweet dreams to someone like this? I try but to no avail.
She puts me down as ‘land hungry.’ How hurt and angry I was – she said, “You’ll never be satisfied with 160 acres. You’ll want more and more.”
Oh how cruel – and oh, how untrue.
But yet – well, how simple if that were the case. For then I would not struggle for that land. We would never have climbed through mud, mosquitoes and carried burdens on our back. Not for land alone – land for speculation. Time and money is too dear. Our family and their comfort are too great. Would we now do what we’re doing just for land?
No, no, no.
We would have relinquished our claim soon after filing. But we can’t relinquish our dreams. It’s our dreams that brought us here to Alaska –made us sell our home and leave our family and friends. It’s our reason for being here and our very reason for homesteading in the first place.
When – if ever – I see that our dreams cannot and will not materialize, then and only then will I give up.
This summer there was a time when our dreams were faint. Bill and I were never together and always worried and tired – “But it is temporary,” I said. “We must always remember our dreams and make them come true.”
Our family must always be first – and our dreams for our family – they all center around our homestead and the life we have planned there.
I never want to sell that land or any part of it. It would be like selling a member of our family.
Yet, Sunday when I saw that glacial ice on our road – standing thick, slippery and full of ridges – so bad even the tractor couldn’t pass over it and we slipped and could have broken our necks.
Can it be true?
Will we ever be able to live there? – All year round or will it always be a continual battle — wearing Bill out? And making him old before his time?
The road has always been our trouble from the beginning and yet our land so peaceful and beautiful is always there beckoning us on and on and on –
To our dreams!!
November 24, 1959 Tuesday
As you now know – here I sit in the log house teaching the children all because I can’t get to our homestead. If it wasn’t so very, very sad, I suppose it could be funny.
Even the children are embarrassed and hate to be seen for they feel they should be in school. Yet, I hate to start them again and then go through taking them out all over again.
Oh Mother what a struggle it has been – such a struggle – for what?
If you could see that road now you too would ask – “Why?”
It’s long stretch after long stretch of glacial ice – deep ice full of ridges and still runny on top as it’s still forming more and more ice. The weather is too warm so the water keeps coming out of the ground and then freezes on top – it’s sloping sideways and so the tractor tilts and sways.
Oh Mom, there must be a quarter mile of it – what will we ever do?? You can’t even walk on it!
— Such a short time to go – if only we were there.
When you get this letter Thanksgiving will be over. I’ve had the children make Turkeys and Pilgrim boys and girls to decorate the windows with. They all do such gorgeous coloring – the colors are truly beautiful. Sharon stays in the lines so nicely. John feels too big for it but I gave him an enormous sheet of drawing paper and he made his own Thanksgiving picture. It’s really something.
Then I cut four pieces of plain heavy paper and each girl sewed with green yarn – the book “I am Thankful” and each was to use one page for a picture for what they were thankful for. They’re treasures. They’re all thankful for each other and Grandma – for YOU! Cindy drew you in her book. For the homestead, the sun, moon and flowers – for God and their pets.
Bill plans to get bolts of some kind for the tractor treads and hopes they’ll stick in the ice and he’ll try to get up early Thursday morning and bring oil and food up. If so, I’ll go up Saturday. I imagine no matter what we’ll walk in whenever we go in or out. I’ll pray continuously!
It’s too bad it worked out this way. Bill says March will be worse as the ice will build up with each passing day. Then in April we’ll have a creek again.
Damn it anyway!!
I want so to see you all. I believe I’ll come down soon. Bill can bring us down and I’ll stay a month or so (could you stand me that long??) I want to see you all – oh, so badly. Then I may come back with you – Hm-m. Well, maybe. Will see!
I love you so much. The house here is cute – but oh the cesspool froze and overflowed [at the log house] – isn’t that terrible? Not cold enough – or not enough snow to protect the ground.
Bill home. It’s 9:30 and second dinner to prepare now. We never get to bed before midnight and he works twelve hours. LOVE, Me
November 28, 1959 Saturday 10:30 P.M.
Bill has been at work since 6:00 A.M. Hope you had as nice a Thanksgiving as you possibly could – with C. and C. away and all. We had to spend it here at the log house and I refused to let Bill try to get up to the homestead and spoil the day as it was the first holiday he’d had since – I can’t remember when. He slept in until 11:00 and napped in afternoon and to bed at 11:00. Bockstahlers came over for pie and coffee – they’re nice. We had a pleasant day but we’re so all mixed up – you know.
Mrs. Vanover offered to lend me a card table – or else we wouldn’t have even had table. I pushed the child’s table next to it and put one big tablecloth over the entire top. I used nice dishes and silver, etc. and even the children cooked and baked. They’re so sweet and precious. I had them make a book the day before entitled “I am thankful” – oh, I told you – so sweet.
I wanted to telephone you but got to thinking of cost involved and didn’t think I should! But you can be certain I thought of you all day.
All would have been fine but my front tooth came completely out and bridge cracked during dinner. Oh Mom I wept. I had an estimate of cost to fix upper teeth few days before – $1,200. I was stymied and sick. Almost tempted to come to California in spring and have it done there. That’s for three gold crowns on upper and new partial. $600 for five teeth OUT and full upper and lower fixed so I’ll probably do that but hate to have them out when they don’t even hurt!!! A PROBLEM.
Then that happened. Yesterday I rushed to the dentist. Could be temporarily repaired. $50.00 paid him for X-ray and repair!! Honestly. But did fix it but he can’t say how long it will last.
Got a $50 check from yours truly yesterday [her father]. It helped cheer me up when down in the dumps. Am enclosing his funny letter for you to read. Don’t you feel sorry for him – (ha ha!). I hadn’t heard since last Xmas.
Bought John some new boots and Linda overshoes with the money and got sleeping bag out from the cleaners ($10.00). It had been in since you were here and groceries. Oh well – John had to have boots and so did Linda so it helped some.
Thanks for your money – please don’t send any again. I’ll just figure you sent the $25 back we sent you – Honestly!! How can we ever pay you back that way!!
Have you decided what you’ll do in spring? We can’t!!
Bill should work tomorrow but he will probably try to get up to the homestead. It is dark – pitch black now at 3:00 – and getting darker all the time…. Love, Me
December 2, 1959 Wednesday [from Mildred’s mother]
I shouldn’t write to you when I feel like this, because I can’t pretend today that I am cheerful or happy. I too am blue, sad and discouraged though the sun is shining and I should control my mood. If I were only there to share and to help you in some way! It’s hard enough to have financial problems, but to have Nature refuse to budge! That is something to worry about. Today I wish you had said good-bye to the homestead last summer, had taken that $1000 and put it down on a home somewhere instead of machines which continually break down. No wonder the garages make money!
Whenever you think the time is right with you to come down here – say the word. You know how I’ll love to have you with me – as long as I have a roof over my head – and that is no joke when I say it! Where will I go? Will I have a roof over my head when I leave here? Oh Mil I get blue and scared for the first time in my life when I realize we both have such terrific problems. You ask what I plan to do? I don’t know. [Bea has to leave her house so it can be leveled for a Pasadena freeway.]
The whole situation here will knock my business right out from under me. Also lately, this year it’s awful anyhow. All people are watching any extras. My business has been cut down 50%. I find all doctors are down at least 25%. No one knows just why, except general fear of conditions everywhere. I am the same. I don’t need to worry about finding a house – rentals are everywhere. I would worry about paying my rent – after having had it paid for me for so many years [by room renters in her house]. I never could think of having an expensive apartment all by myself. If I ever take a big house – I’ll have an apartment to rent or some income from it, I hope. Even if Charlie bought a house and let me pay him, it would be the same. I hate, hate financial worries. I want peace and contentment for us all anywhere, anyhow. So I’ve decided not to think about it all until I know what goes with you up there in Alaska. I get a month’s notice – enough time to worry in. I can put things in storage or month or so, if I wish. They still say April 1st – but may be later. I have notion they may wait until college is over – in last of May. But I can see what I want in that time.
Meanwhile you ought to know just what you are going to face and do. Even if you come down after April 1st – and I have to move, we could move together – or go to that nice Motel you were in the last time here. Just as you found that nice place, you’ll find the right way out of this muddle too. I want to [can’t read word] if you need me around during my transition period. My business has to be completely reorganized from scratch. I knew that last summer. That’s why I dared not remain longer than two weeks in Alaska. I also knew this winter would be slow and I’d have to get every little penny I could. But anywhere I go, I can do well on tutoring as I get the testing built up. Moreover that is why I am going to try this Spelling Program and also lay out a research project which can be done anywhere on my own time – if I can plan and [can’t read word] the idea.
So your own solution to your own Alaska problem means much to you all and to me. If you need me to help you a few months in the transition period, I’ll be ready and eager. I only wish I had gone by idea I suggested: namely to go back to you after I got boys [renters] settled here – and return in February. You’d have had your time in and all would be well now. Oh damn. It would have been double fare – but worth it. So now I say if you want me March 1st – I’ll jump a plane and be there so you can put in March 7 – April 7; April 7 to May 7. I’d have to know as soon as possible on this end – so I could leave things right here. Then you could return here for a month to help me get settled – or whatever seemed best at that time. That May 7th is your deadline, isn’t it?
Unless you, yourself, go down to the Land Office and beg them for “advice” about “how to get up” so you can “put your time in.” Register the fact that you’ve had the children out of school (with permission) for the period requested, but you can’t get up there. I think they should have some way out of it – in delays like that. They want the land to go to people like you and Bill that have the nerve and willingness to face such hardships. You have and are willing. What’s the use of having that “friend (?)” in the Land Office, if you can’t talk to him? Have Bill go with you, but you go anyhow. You could even go to that Governor to “fight for your land” and help to get some help on the road to get you up there. I think that is an Alaskan duty to the struggling pioneers. Stand up and fight for your rights – if there are any! You “want it” – go get it. I’ll help any way I can.
I bet Bill never wrote about those tires for the Jeep to go on ice which are fastened to Jeep tires. I wrote in October about them when boy in Caltech, knowing about the road, brought address. You have to try to find out. It would be good advertising for the company, if they worked. Write anyhow. Here’s address again: Terra Engineering Co., Inc., P.O. Box 254, Lexington, Mass.
Should have given address to Carolyn and Charles when they went East. Send it to dear Daddy! [Mother’s father out east]
Anyhow boy said he read article and he thought it would work on your road – He is an electrical engineer here in house and understood your road problem.
Would be worth it. Was supposed to go through creeks etc. Might work in March. No harm to put problem up to them to see what they say!
You’ll lose everything otherwise.
Can’t the Army suggest anything? Army Jeeps go on Artic ice. I suppose on skis and sleds. Can’t you get help from the Camp?
Then afterwards, if Bill has these tire gadgets he could be sure to go up and down. Imagine if you’d been up there alone with the broken plate – or something else. It’s just not right for you to be alone there with four children. Better put them back in school until March.
Anyhow those records will be there at school of your willingness to do the job!! Seems awful if you don’t get it. But government would only say you should have put in your oil supply for those four remaining months, plus food etc. and stayed there. You would have if the road would allow it.
Oh well what do I know about it? I really only wish it were all over as you do. I can’t say I wish you hadn’t tried it, because now you both know what it is all about. Certainly you can write about it as an authority – from experience – whether you get the place or not!
Really I’m afraid to have you and children up there in January and February – alone in case oil stove or something doesn’t work – or someone is ill. It’s like the road – you can’t just ignore dangers when four little ones depend on your wisdom and plans, dear. Oh, Mil, it’s a terrific problem and you’ve been so brave I want you to win. I’m afraid I’m not helpful at all.
Have been trying to work, but my heart is not in it. And money is scarce. I broke the bank having a little typing done. They are so slow and only “copy” what I have written so that’s hard to pay for after doing all the handwork myself! But I do have to have a little help.
Carolyn and Charlie came home last Sunday. Glad to have them back even though I only see them for hours a week. Yet I can talk to them if I want to, wish you and I could do that too. I wonder, often, whether Alaska has given you all you desired, Mil. When you didn’t call Thursday I figured what happened. Wise. I was missing you all and thinking of you too.
Got your mental messages! Terrible about that tooth – to destroy things at a time like that especially. No wonder you cried! But that price is simply ridiculous. Told Carolyn on ‘phone and she said that that fellow Charlie knew in L.A. years ago only paid $2,000 to have all teeth removed, special enameled tooth put into gums individually – a real operation! And Carolyn had all hers out and complete upper for $350. I had lower for $150, but no teeth out. So you certainly could have it for $350 here! Thankful for temporary repair. Eat soup from now on! What more can happen? Move very carefully, honey. You are all so very precious.
To get back to C. and C. Trip was awful. Struck the cold months. Rain and snow. Only a half day of sunshine. All caught colds right away. Charlie never gets down with a cold, but he had cold and fever when he left and it got worse. Had to lie around all of first week – and never got to New York at all. Decided he never wanted to make any pictures or commercials in East after that spell of weather anyhow. So just made calls from Boston and messed around. Except for Thanksgiving and Carolyn he would have returned at end of first week.
He says business is terrible there. Carolyn’s father hasn’t had a decent deal in a year – you can expect “dear daddy” said too. Charlie says Boston people and city are depressing. Everybody talks pessimistically and [can’t read word] but remain.
No other news. All sad, sad. Haven’t seen them long enough to know whether they went to old houses etc. Only there two hours. I was tired and so were they as I “ate and ran”. Tell you more as I get it….
No more now. Just live for your letters even on or two pages to let me know that you are well and what goes on.
I mean every word. I just live for day to have you here on a visit, or get up to help if I can. Doing nothing here that counts.
Must get to typewriter. Give children love and say Hi to Bill. Glad “Daddy” came across for Xmas. Stiff old letter sounds like him. Loads of love ever and always, Mother.
December 3, 1959 Thursday [Bill to Mildred’s mother]
Just a note to let you know what’s going on. Mil was going to write but she didn’t have time.
Tuesday night [December 1st] we went up to the Homestead – to stay, we hope. We didn’t have any trouble getting there, and everything was in good shape except for a lot of mouse droppings on things, which upset Mil no end. I stayed home yesterday and helped her clean it up so things are OK now. They’ll get along fine I think. She and the kids all love it there.
She said you were wondering about Xmas presents for us. The thing we need most is a battery powered radio, not one of the real small ones but not an expensive one. If you’d like you could get one as a gift for all of us, and send it early so they can listen to the Xmas music. You could most easily order one from Sears and have them send it direct to us from Seattle. [rest of letter is missing]
December 3, 1959 Thursday 5:00 A.M.
Dearest Mother (even the pen is too cold to write),
I am intent on madly dashing off a few hasty lines to you while the pancakes are cooking, so you’ll know ‘all is well’ – (except I have one of my nasty headaches. I don’t have to speculate as to how this one originated). We’ve had quite a time of it! – To say the least.
But what’s important dear Mother, is this – thanks to your encouraging words and our own ‘bullheadness’ and Bill’s ingenuity – we made it. We’re here!! – And I pray we can stick it out.
We got here December 1st – an easy day to remember and the night Bill’s overtime was over so he can get back at least two nights every week. Then he may have more! Already the children’s cheeks are rosier. Oh, such a white pallor they get in the valley.
It gets dark so soon now! It is pitch black at this moment and yesterday I turned on the kerosene lamps at 2:15 P.M. – of course it gets darker earlier in the hut.
The snow is very deep and the world up here is one of white stillness – oh, so quiet. No rushing river or rushing waterfall – all is frozen and QUIET – save for the caw of a crow occasionally or the yapping and mournful howling of Thomas’ sled dogs.
We almost got a new dog. Cooks, who live in Briggs’ house are going back to Azusa, California (it’s a small world) and have a beautiful black dog – a pony really. I asked for him but they decided to take him home. We are breeding Smokey with him Saturday – !!
Here comes Bill – must stop. Tell C. and C. their packages came yesterday. Thrilled – absolutely. Such a nice surprise – especially up here. I’ll write them today.
Love to you and them, Me and Kids and Bill too
Oh, Xmas – We’re outfitting kids with skis. I take John to dentist tomorrow and get his skis (all picked out) but he needs ski boots. I don’t mind getting him ski boots because Linda can wear them next year. Size 5. Get Charlie’s advice on boots. Girls need money towards skis.
Bill and I would like a joint present for a battery radio – a transistor radio – not expensive but just so we could hear Xmas music here – the children otherwise won’t even hear a carol this year. If they’re expensive – we’ll add to the money. I wanted one all summer – oh how nice that would be! Nothing else!! If you decide and can get one reasonably then package it real well and send it air mail so we can hear it now.
Must close and will write today about our adventure!
December 4, 1959 Friday 5:35 A.M.
I have not kept a recent record of all this so please return letters – OK? Thanks. You see, I’m determined to put all this in book form still if only for the children so that they will be able to partially understand why we did what we did.
If we sometimes wonder – think how they will? (Although I think they’ll understand pretty well – this way they’ll be able to grasp the full significance of it just as I am by writing it – it amazes how it all fits together in a pattern – I can see, as Bill says, how we were headed for that mountain all of the time – ready and waiting for us.)
As I said good-bye to Bill this morning I saw it is snowing, really snowing – big, soft, white fluffy flakes. Already it’s up to my knees except on our paths and where the children have trampled it down.
Oh, so much to tell – I may skip around a bit but bear with me!
First, I must tell you how good it’s to be back but Tuesday night at 10:00 P.M. when we arrived home I didn’t feel like that.
Last Friday Bill came up here alone to see if he could make it. He put the large bolts in the tractor treads to see if they would grip in the snow and ice. They bit into our already meager budget – as $300 per month is now paid to the Credit Union and Bill gets $300 and we must pay rent at the log house, oil, gas – Oh well!
Anyways we live on air.
He made it! He wouldn’t even take a box for fear of jinxing it! You know, Sunday before last we were loaded to the hilt and had to return to the log house and unpack all because we couldn’t make it up.
But he made it!
No trouble on ice!
We’re persistent – even Joann is surprised, she says.
Then – I’m looking at the calendar. Monday was November 30th and he came up alone and brought the book case – it’s in the trailer and cute. I have all the children’s school books on it.
Tuesday we came! I went to the store and we brought our wool rug up for ‘the hut’ – it will be warm! I’ll paint the inside of the entire hut before Xmas!! We also moved our big redwood table in and to think Bill didn’t think there’d be room for boxes that were there unpacked!
I didn’t either for a while. Oh, Mom you know what almost beat me? MICE – yes, MICE. You know how I detest them. I wrote and told you how twice now I’ve had to wash linens, pots and pans etc. – I told you about our bed.
Ghastly! Horrible things –
Oh – Oh – how I hate them.
Well, now I have two kittens! Got them from Cooks – when oh, so tiny. (Our black sweet cat disappeared.)
These are adorable and the cutest I’ve ever seen. They love each other and play so cute. They’re getting very big now and as I told the children at the log house as they played – they’re tiger cats.
Cat says, “Look at me. I’m a tiger – I’ll scare those mice away” and children would laugh to watch them practice.
Well, they will too. Bill has caught two in his traps. Not a sign of one while I’m here but there were icky droppings everywhere.
Oh Mom, let me tell you. We rode up in the trailer in back of the tractor – cold – we almost froze! It was a moonless, cold, dark night – way below zero – we all had two sets of long underwear on but still froze! I had two sweaters and Bill’s Alaskan sweater on and a parka and felt as if I had a summer jacket on.
Just sitting in that open trailer – not moving around – it’s colder that way. Oh, those kids are perfect sports. Never a whimper, complaint or cry.
Well, we got here and still had more boxes of food, school books and honest this hut (I’m in the trailer now) and trailer were so crowded you could scarcely move. It smelled mousy Then the hut had ice on some of the inside panels – and icicles – really!
Bill says it’s due to condensation – I was certain they leaked. It’s all important not to let snow pile up on roofs and first thing we do when we get here is to clean it all off.
No fire – freezing inside. We slept in our ‘long Johns’ and sweaters until last night and then I wear two pairs of pajamas and long underwear and flannel lined jeans inside all day and two pairs of wool socks. No choice. The floors are cold and the trailer is always cold. I swear there’s absolutely no insulation in the trailer. The ‘hut’ gets snug and warm but the floors are cold and there are cracks all around as you so well know!
Anyway mice droppings are everywhere. They had slept on children’s beds and worst of all for Darling Cindy they were in the box with her new precious beautiful doll. She wept. [They ate off its toes!]
Oh Mom, I just sat in a chair and couldn’t cry – I just sat.
Finally, after I built a fire – we have wood and oil stove in the hut – and cleared some boxes out, we went to bed. I lay awake – Bill went right to sleep. I couldn’t. I imagined mice everywhere and couldn’t undress or get under sheets.
Same next night – the reason for my headache. Bill stayed home Wednesday and we worked all day.
I got most boxes cleared and he brought in the big redwood table for the children to study on as we can’t sit in trailer for long. I’m bundled up now and have oven on high.
Then yesterday I taught kids and cleaned all day. Beds changed – blankets aired – drawers cleaned and school in between. A job.
Bill had a day too. Oil to get – propane to get. Chains to put on and take off. He didn’t get home from work until 10:00 P.M. and left at 5:45 A.M.
Well, only two more boxes to go. Once again, it takes shape and looks homey! We’ll take slides inside at Xmas and send you copies. It’s so expensive to have slides printed. We still haven’t developed rolls taken when you were here – no money.
I also re-arranged trailer and put the metal shelves in the back room and put canned foods etc. on them. I also put dressing table and medicine in there.
Brought up my good curtains – drapes – I made for the apartment. Pretty but cheap material and I am putting them in the hut – I insist it looks as nice as possible.
We must build a lean-to or get another hut in June to hold furniture that’s at the log house – what we’ll do next winter?
December 5, 1959 Saturday [from Mildred’s mother]
P.S. Did you receive the fruit cake C. and C. sent air mail from Boston?
Dear Mil and Bill:
I am so thrilled and happy to get Bill’s letter just now that I could cry for joy. It was just wonderful news to hear that you “made it” up to the homestead. Hurrah – Raise a flag. I’ll be waiting anxiously for details of the trip and conditions. John wrote such a nice letter before, let him drop a note when you all are too busy.
I’m in the middle of testing a man and his wife (Saturday P.M.). He is not satisfied with his job, and has ulcers! Wants diagnosis of his vocational problem too! She works in electronics office with Kathleen who seems to sing my praises up there. So – I haven’t time to write more now, will tonight or tomorrow.
I know I’ll sleep well tonight. You all have been on my [mind] every minute night and day. You have gone so far and bravely that I couldn’t begin to think Mother Nature would hold you up at the end. Now I’ll pray continually for the beaters to work and for all to be well. I’d die happy if I know you complete this little circuit which you have sacrificed so much for. “Money” we can all earn somehow, sometime, but what you have earned is quite different. Now I pray for health and safety. Money we can all get soon – if we are as careful as we have been. I love you all and want your security and happiness more than I ever wanted my own. You’ll understand some day when your children are older.
Consider the radio my Xmas present to you and Mildred, with my love. I had thought of that – last summer, but didn’t know. I’ll send it via Sears on Monday. Getting children (girls) lined pants (indoor and T shirts). Sharon will get her mittens and knitted stocking hat. Girls won’t get theirs until later. John will get a Bible which I hope he will always love and a shirt – and at least “one” stocking, perhaps the second which is “on its way.” Will send one anyhow to check the size.
No more now – have to call “time” now! Wanted to take this out when I go on errands at five. Take care of yourselves my dears and all the little dears too.
All will be well. God will guard them all if we trust.
Bye now – from a Happy Mother who is relieved to know you can get in your time.
Have you everything with which to keep warm? Will you be able to get your supplies up? No more worry thoughts today – Just happy thoughts for us all.
Kisses and love to all – from Mother
December 5, 1959 Saturday
*Notes: We went down to the log house – snowed all day and tonight. Worked down there giving baths, shampooing hair, washing clothes, etc. Addressed Xmas cards and got packages ready to mail to California. Didn’t leave there until after 10:00 P.M. and got home at 1:00 A.M.
December 6, 1959 Sunday
*Notes: How perfectly wonderful to have Bill home today – all day. We got up late and really goofed off today – although we did get a few things hung and up in trailer kitchen. It’s cozy and oh, so cold. Even with the heat turned up high it’s still cold over there!! I’m sure there isn’t one bit of insulation – just metal and 1/8” board. Oh well, the entry doesn’t have insulation either! Only the hut gets warm but it’s drafty and full of holes!! – Maybe next winter –
Never mind, when I remember back – I feel we’ve done a lot – even though there is oh, so much to be done.
We all walked over to the bank of the creek and looked so many feet below. How very different everything appears – how still and white! Yet oh, so beautiful. Looking into the valley – it’s bleak and cold at 3:00 – yet toward the inlet it’s a riot of splendid color – the setting sun over the water.
I love it so here – I get afraid – and know I’ll never rest until the land is ours – truly ours!
The children tried walking in the deep snow and it’s still snowing. I bet this is a marking for this winter. Bill carried Sharon – beaming and happy to be with her Daddy – high in his arms! The other girls trudged on – but John, as usual, full of bouncing energy was ahead and back several times.
We took several pictures – and one of dear Smokey covered with her delightful snow. She plows into it with her head – and makes a tunnel and then just lies there! Oh, how she revels in it! It’s sheer joy to watch her!
The girls found a big spreading spruce tree and discovered a house under its boughs – all dry and snug. We stopped in our spruce forest to decide for the millionth time – the exact spot where a cabin should be built.
Dream, dream, dream and yet someday I’m so certain they too will come true.
Sharon had her first turn on the little skis – and did so well! John is a natural and I surely hope we can squeeze the money out for his skis. Slopes are perfect and snow is fine. Mine are still in town getting bindings changed.
I felt so happy and contented here all day – all of us close together – so all alone up here. It was a nice day.
I hated the thought of Bill returning to work and we daydreamed together of how he’d quit work and we’d live so cheaply – hunt our meat, grow our vegetables and live in our old trailer and hut, then travel to Europe and lecture on Alaska – return to Alaska and lecture on Europe – south America and lecture on both.
Oh, such marvelous dreams and yet we’d probably hate it –
Or would we?
After we came in I had a big roast cooking and put a pie in the oven. Ym-m. So nice to all sit together and eat a wonderful meal way up here!!
Afterwards Bill got our big Xmas box out and we took out our before Xmas decorations and fixed up our hut. The children were so thrilled and gathered together to read and sing carols. Oh, such sweetness and starry eyes. They don’t care about presents – it’s just the feeling of Xmas coming.
Wore two pairs of light ‘Long Johns’ and a sweater and flannel pajamas of Bill’s to bed – and was none too warm. Have trouble sleeping at night here.
December 7, 1959 Monday
*Notes: Been up here one week today – seven weeks to go. Colder and clear.
Last night I knocked all the snow off the canvas inside by pushing up on the canvas from the inside with the end of the broom handle. I accidentally poked some holes in the canvas but they luckily only went through the inside layer. I’ll have to be more careful from now on, but it has to be done. You could hear it slide off the rounded top and yet today it was dripping from condensation worse than ever. Three panels now are wet and make a general mess of the floor.
Then Bill put several gallons of water in the galvanized container he bought that was “guaranteed” not to leak and it all came out all over the rear room of the trailer. Such a mess. The floor is so cold that the towels I put on it to absorb the water froze and crystallized!! The idea was good – but it does LEAK!!
Spent some time this morning stuffing crumpled up newspaper in spaces under doors and in cracks between the floor panels, etc. This place surely is NOT winterized!!
Hung two heavy Army blankets over the door entrance Bill hurriedly erected. Door won’t shut tight and it is way below zero today. I hung one wool blanket in front of the entrance down to stairs to trailer. They really helped. Big blasts of cold air come in – even Smokey wanted to be in today with us!
Really worked with children today – work, work and still never able to get enough done with John. Geography test – English (learning to use Dictionary), History, Spelling. Linda finished work book today and Cindy two.
We made a few Xmas things – a tree, Xmas cards, and Xmas pictures. Glad I kept scrapbooks of John and Linda’s work in first grade – gives me lots of ideas for Xmas things for them to make! They’re so good and plug on!
Today lit lights at 2:00 in the afternoon – no windows in here really – and still will get darker.
Kittens snuggled up to the children today and relish their cozy world. They have never been outside yet. I had hoped children would get out some each day but all stayed in today.
December 7, 1959 Monday
*Notes: Our Family Is Never Bored!
The children spend many happy contented hours now working on various Xmas projects. Cindy has made individual baskets for each member of her beloved family made out of egg carton sections, each wrapped in aluminum foil with a pipe cleaner handle and a marshmallow (how hard they’ll be by Xmas) and a lollypop in each one. They’re secretly hidden and each day Sharon teases to see hers – it’s a constant thing to talk about, to whisper about and to be excited about for Xmas is coming.
Our Xmas books – we buy two each year — have grown to quite a collection. These are taken out during the first week of December and read each day until Xmas. This year John and Linda can very expressively read them aloud! It thrills me to see the younger two – eyes wide with wonder – listening in rapt attention to their older brother or sister read the magic words to them.
Yes, Xmas is coming.
No mention is made of money – we all know – it just isn’t there. We will do what we can but the days of borrowing money for Xmas presents that we can’t afford are over!! There will be Xmas presents though.
I’ve bought at half price knitting sets – with yarn and tiny needles for two girls and a needlepoint set for one – I hope John will get his skis and Grandma will buy his boots. The girls will get a flying saucer from Santa to share and a tea set. The 5¢ and 10¢ store and ingenuity and imagination and love will make a Xmas – you just wait and see….
What is important!!
More and more every day I realize what’s really important in life!
Being together – being a family unit and being loved and loving – these are the important things.
Health – to be healthy and well and to know that the ones you love are well.
(I hope my loved ones never suffer – how terrible it would be to see them hurt or sick – how terrible to ever think they might need me – and I wouldn’t know).
How thankful I am to be here writing this and know our family is safe and together on this night –
Dearest God in heaven above, I thank you for our family and our homestead and for the opportunities we have here to create a home for our loved ones in a land such as this.
I am content tonight – tomorrow we will plan and work for our future but I intend to fully enjoy each day as it comes – to work hard but to be content to wait – material things are really of such minor importance. I feel we already have what really counts and must never lose it in hurrying and working too hard to get THINGS.
I see so many people – even up here in Alaska – doing just that, living in far too expensive houses – beyond what they can really afford to pay and working so hard to live there and meet the payments that the house as beautiful as it may be, holds no happiness for the occupants and they live separately in it.
No, no – never – we’ve had our share of money worries – no, no, no.
I’ll be content with less – Bill and I are so close now – never, never to be apart mentally and spiritually – nothing is worth that!
Our little hut and trailer mean more to me if we can be all together and happy and close here!!
The other – I pray God – we’ll be content to wait for. If we can manage fine – if not, so what!?!?
December 8, 1959 Tuesday 10:30 P.M.
*Notes: How quiet and serene and peaceful it is. Everyone is asleep. Even our two kittens, Dixie and Pixie are curled up in Cindy’s bed. I don’t approve but haven’t the heart to move them. One is tucked under her arm with covers pulled up under its chin, all the world like a toy. The second is on the foot of her bed.
The dishes are done and the trailer is tidy and neat. Everything looks cozy and cute and serene in the light of the single kerosene lamp I am writing by.
Bill went to bed – absolutely exhausted after a twenty four hour ordeal of futile attempts to return here which finally terminated in his having to walk the last mile. Even poor ‘Oliver’ our faithful tractor found this 10° to 20° below zero weather too cold!
I just went outside for a moment and it’s really cold and really beautiful. The stars are so close looking you feel as if you could pick them out of the sky and the moon is so bright that you can see all the mountains and the valley below.
How I truly love this place – no words can aptly describe how I feel about this land we hope someday to own. It’s really an almost HOLY feeling. I know it sounds silly but it’s the way I feel. If only you could see it – you would see what a Shangri la it is! – And what’s more we have created a home – be it ever so humble here! It’s quite a grand feeling!!
Time for bed. Good night!
December 9, 1959 Wednesday
*Note: Darling Sharon [4 ½] how diligently she works – sitting so still and straight next to Cynthia and she wants to work and won’t play. She says, “I must get this Nursery school work done or I’ll get spanked.” Eagerly she looks at me and says, “I do, don’t I Mommy?”
The others glance at me – so knowingly.
At first I didn’t want her to work all day and we had many arguments about it. She was so hurt and wanted to work as they did. Now she’s so happy and gets her papers marked and corrected and receives stars just as they do.
No school today!
Bill doesn’t come home.
It is midnight and I guess Bill wasn’t able to get the vehicles going. I’ve had to melt snow for water since noon and after a big baking spree of bread baking, pies and baked beans and hot rolls there were many dishes to be done. I’ll never do THAT again. I finally gave up teaching today except for one lesson in letter writing and some reading aloud in History.
The trouble is – I bring in an enormous amount of snow and it melts to just about one cup of water.
Finally I built a big fire in the wood stove.
December 10, 1959 Thursday
*Notes: Got a full day of studying in. 9:00 P.M. – For the last hour I’ve been intently listening for the welcome sound of the tractor. It’s funny how when you listen so hard for something you can almost hear it. Several times I’ve gone outside to listen for it, but not a sound – all so still and quiet. I guess I hear the oil lamp or stove when I stop and wish –
We’re out of water, of course, except for snow – consequently I cooked very little today.
We’re very low on groceries too – no bread, eggs or potatoes – also out of cat and dog food and fruit juices.
Pray and hope Bill comes up tonight and maybe tomorrow we’ll go down to the log house for baths – instead of Saturday. Kittens made friends with Smokey finally!! So cute to see them cuddled up next to her.
The children made a lovely Xmas book to send Grandma today, at my suggestion. I made two covers out of red construction paper and decorated them. Each child colored Xmas pictures to put inside and drew several of their own. I’m sure it will be her favorite Xmas present and now I want one too.
They all made cards to send to relatives which are all enclosed in envelopes and addressed. Sharon got pencil in hand and wanted to know (like Cindy) how to spell Love and Merry Xmas. As I told her, she wrote one by one in her own script so carefully!
Sharon wrote a long letter to Santa and made a very special card for him (because she bet he doesn’t get many Xmas cards). Of course I put his name on it and addressed it to the North Pole.
The older children wanted to know what will the mailman think?!
Well, at least I conquered those Coleman lanterns today. Our light is so poor that I decided to get those lit or else! Yesterday they flared up a bit and I’m so frightened of them anyways and I just refused to try again.
But today I was determined – and had good luck!
But our big kerosene lamp’s glass shade cracked today for no apparent reason and we’ll sorely miss that until we get another one.
Bill came home late – Oh, how welcome was the sound of the tractor.
December 10, 1959 Thursday [from Mildred’s mother]
Dearest Mildred and Bill:
(enclosed check for girls) I am so thrilled over you “getting up” to the homestead. It was quite a feat, I know. You are wonderful and so are those grand little sporting children. It must have frozen you all. Don’t see how you stood it. Oh, oh, have you plenty of oil and wood? It’s the cold indoors that frightens me. What about those fur-lined suits that Eskimos wear? Can you buy them?
Your letter was wonderful, Mil. Made me feel as if I was right along with you. “Who’s afraid of a wee little mouse?” Not I. But stay near the “hut” – I’d be afraid of a bear-hug. Oh they are asleep aren’t they? Goody! But I do know how you might have felt that first night there. Leave it to you to make it homey right away. Seems that all you need to do in the summer is to put up brick walls on outside and have everything the way it is now – inside. Imagine. Write the story of the redwood furniture that traveled from California to Alaska – and loved it! The old big table would make a good study table at that. I hope you do manage to get those pictures. The developing can wait, but you can’t recapture the moods or the pictures. That’s why it is important to jot down outlines at least as you go. Rewriting can be done later. I’ll send all letters, of course. Am hoping you will be able to write some articles up. You can make extra during these tight years.
Loved the diagram of the hut and the trailer. How do you get so much “up” and “in.” No one else could ever do it. Even Carolyn said there’s no one else she ever knew that could match you in all this, Mil. All keep well – and all will be wonderful.
So happy that Bill’s overtime ended just when it did. Miraculous, wasn’t it? Our prayers are answered. How I’ll try to live up to all our blessings. I try to go to church Sundays now. Dr. Little has been very powerful lately. I’m glad. It helps me. I felt that we had not been doing our part (any of us) in getting to church as we should. You all couldn’t these years, but we all could. Charlie had a spell where wanted to go, but then lost the habit. Hope they begin again later. Children want to go to Sunday school too.
Well, back to my homestead talk. Thank Goodness Bill is with you for first few weeks anyhow. I do not quite understand how he did it, but that he can get up is something. Probably better now then in the spring flood waters. Right?
(Believe me a mosquito is buzzing around my head. Where did he come from? Is it a ghost mosquito or what?)
Seems to me someone told me it was easier to get up with snow on the ground.
Anyhow I hope you all learn to “ski.” That thrilled me again. (Silly me!) But be careful!! It’s a long time since you were on skis, and you MUST be cautious.
Bought John’s Boots. They are nice and size 5. I’m so glad to send them. Dear, nobody knows what I can do next year – so let me have fun doing it this year, please – I’ll send them tomorrow, parcel-post. Sending the Boot within a boot.
Will send $5.00 to each girl toward what you are getting for them. OK? They deserve all this and more, Mildred. No other children would “take it” so happily. Of course they “follow their leader”! No wonder they are good sports.
Sent a radio via Sears at Seattle. Do hope it will work. Ordered it last Monday through Pasadena store. Let me know as soon as it arrives.
Sent a plaid wool shirt to you, Bill. Hope it keeps you warm on one-layer anyhow.
Wish I could see Sharon’s stocking cap on her. Hope she likes it. Have yarn for others and will try to get some done for them without long tail. That takes time – otherwise fun. Also try to get John’s second stocking finished. Ought to be warm.
Will you tell me how you are going to get around in ten feet of snow? I have memory of getting “stuck in it” in front of my own house that night of the blizzard [back east]. Please do not venture far when Bill is not there. Promise?
I don’t wonder that you love that little bit of Heaven up there. All I want is you all safe and well and warm! Your letters ring with the thrills of it all, once more.
Time goes FAST, as I well know. Two months ought to tell you a story about it all, I’m sure. I’ll be facing my move before I know it. I refuse to worry about it until time comes. I get a month’s notice.
Write a child’s story about the kittens in Alaska. That would be cute – and the mice peeking out. (I know the mousey smell.)
Is your hut water tight or snow tight now? And free from the wind? Shall I send you that Chinese hooked rug – green and gray – for the floor – via boat? It would cover the cracks and be warm!
What else could I send? Shall I knock down one of those long tables and ship for spring when you want redwood table outside? No wonder you had headache. Will send some medicines in package, so guard them when you get them. Know what they might mean for you. If you don’t need them – good.
How goes it with Mrs. Thomas? Would hate to hear the moaning of the dogs in the night if I were she. You get used to it, I guess. Tell me how she is, if you know.
How do children respond to new teacher – mother? Bet they love it, Mil. Will write to John. Has been hectic with Flintridge, and Spelling and house and all. But getting it under control. I can work like the deuce when I know you are all OK. Keep the letters or notes rolling – they keep me happy. Let me know what I can do. Tell John I am going to write him. I’m sending him the Bible, you know. Next year, I hope one to Linda, then Cindy, next Sharon if I may and am alive and able.
I must investigate gram’s old hooked rug. Probably ruined.
What is the story on the second stove? That’s a MUST. If I can help after a while on that I will.
Can Bill get home when he wants to by means of these new fixtures? When he isn’t home – I’d be apt to change my schedule and get up at daybreak and go to bed at dark – no matter what the clock says. Now I understand my people in Maine etc. “always went to bed with the chickens.”
Looking at the “Plan” you sent. Will return the letter after I’ve read it a couple of times. Will return all for your records.
Glad you got way to hut [connection between hut and trailer]. Seems so well arranged in hut. I can imagine it all. May have been silly to go up last summer, but I can so well visualize everything on homestead now as you write. It’s a comfort, dear.
Like the four steps up! Watch out!
Did excellent job on my little bedroom in trailer. Good.
How about smell in refrigerator!
I crown you an “Efficiency Expert – Interior – Decorator” after looking over that plan again. It’s great.
Don’t worry about the films or another thing. We’ll see them all later – together – somehow or other. All money must be practical ones after Xmas. So it will all work out, I know.
Glad you brought the drapes up and gave color and home to the family. Who could enjoy living as those people did below who never took food or anything out of cartons! Mrs. Thomas and you are different, wonderful women. How goes her book, I wonder?
What is there in this house you would like in “break-up” time?
Anyhow – one step at a time, but yet must keep on making advanced plans and creating visions and dreams, or one becomes a day-to-day “dud.”
Dying for next installment. You see I kept all letters in their envelopes so you could file and find them “by dates.”
Haven’t read all details of last to C. and C. – except gave gist over ‘phone, because they all have still been ill, really, since coming back. Sandra had awful sore throat and fever on return, but C. did not realize how sick she was and made her go to school, feeling she had missed so much. Then Friday and Saturday Carolyn came down with sore throat herself. She found it was no bluff. By Monday A.M. she found she had strep throat (going around) – very bad – affected her neck glands and ear. Went to ear doctor. He sent her home with very, very strong medication and pain pills. She’s been sleeping it off half drugged….
So, honey, just guard your health. He says she was run-down and that’s why it hit hard. Tired after Boston siege. They don’t yearn for cold weather now, and worry about you. But Dad used to say the pure air in mountains was better than city germs!
Cannot figure what to get for Carolyn and Sandra. Always my problem. Then my shopping is over. How I wish I had money at Christmas. I swear I’ll write – even if I take Social Security for a year and try myself out. Then I’d go dry. I have ideas when I’m busy and haven’t time to write them!
Must stop. I could go on and on, but have told all now.
Will write “quickies” for next few, because I’ve told all news now.
How I pray that by some miracle Bill can keep on going up. That would be wonderful. I’m sending a bottle of those wonderful vitamins. Perhaps they have fortified me, for I feel better when and if I take them. Bought bottle for you and one for me. Health is everything and foremost.
Don’t be scared. Don’t be lonely. God is truly watching over both of you and your family. Keep that firmly in you minds and hearts, and things will work out.
I’ll write several times again – but for now again – before Xmas – My dearest love, I’m proud and praying for you, lovingly, Mother
December 10, 1959 Thursday [from Mildred’s mother – Part II]
Greetings for your birthday, my dear. It’s not far away now. I am sending a bundle for you – air mail. It is naughty of me – but this minute I saw the set I had to have it for you. So there! It’s for you when you go back to town later, or when you take your trip. Maybe, if you ever tell me your waist measurement, I might get a chance to get a skirt too, or perhaps later I can send money and have you fit up there. By now you know it’s a sweater set! I can dream of you in it. It will be warm and special when you want it sometime. Know I should get slacks or something “practical,” but darn it you have to have “something special” tucked away! If you don’t agree, and want something else, send it back. One is for birthday, one for Xmas. [can’t read word] with my love for being such a wonderful daughter to me, always!
I’ll be thinking of you all every day, but especially of you on your birthday and on Xmas. I do pray they will bring peace and happiness. Dr. Little’s sermon was terrific last Sunday. He says we are “imperfect people in an imperfect world.” That we must [can’t read word] by conquering our problems and our imperfections, that God gives them to us so that we shall learn patience, control, and real love for one another. He pleased me no end by saying that these people (like Christian Scientists) who won’t admit evil or illness and expect all to be love and perfection make him sick! Like me, he says we must learn through our struggles. I do believe that is true.
No more now. I just do hope that this season will be happier than the old Thanksgiving Day when the tooth gave you heart ache as well as toothache! That was a catastrophe. But the dentist’s estimates are outrageous. C and C were horrified and said wait to come to California to do it later, if you can.
By the way, Charlie couldn’t understand why sweet cake was so late. Had sent it by Air-Mail to reach for thanksgiving but may have had old address on it. Anyway glad you liked it. Best love to you and ALL, Mother
December 10, 1959 Thursday
I’ll try to write a hurried letter to you – between hearing reading, supervising work books and giving spelling tests. Really I’m very pleased with their progress. They’re so good and cooperative – how I love them each and every one!!
Today they made a very special cooperative Xmas present which we’ll send air mail in a day or so. It didn’t cost a cent and I guarantee it will be your ‘bestest’ Xmas present!
VIII. Homesteaders even in Alaska are becoming extinct.
December 12, 1959 Saturday 1:00 P.M.
*Notes: I have a splitting headache – feel miserable – combination of nerves, heat, oil, kerosene, below zero – being cooped up with children.
Oh, how we had counted on Bill getting home early today. Yesterday he overslept (oh, how tired he is) and stayed at the log house last night. It’s a good thing we have that house so he can sleep there when necessary.
I wonder what has happened – Jeep broke down – tractor wouldn’t start – or what??? I’m sure he would have been here early if there had been any possible way.
The so and so Coleman lamps won’t stay bright, no matter how I pump them. They flicker – off – oh, for some good light. Bill can get them burning so nice and bright.
Oh, how I miss him and wish he were home!!
6:30 P.M. Bill gets home – poor darling says he had been on the mountain since 2:30 trying to get up and finally had to walk up! That one hill just is giving him lots of trouble!!!
He says the ones with ice are easier – the bolts on the tractor’s treads dig right into them but this one steep hill has frozen ice-earth (dirt) and the tractor can’t dig into it. He says he’ll have to build a new road now – that this one will soon be impassable!
Saturday night — I cared for nothing else in the world except to be close to Bill. When we’re apart one night I feel as if it’s been weeks. Oh, how good to be close to him – I relax completely when I’m with him. Such bliss to just be close to him again and oh, how I wish we could just all be together here for these months!!! – How nice, we daydream, just once to be alone here to ski and snow shoe and love! (–We need a bedroom of our own – we’re very handicapped here all sleeping in one room.)
December 13, 1959 Sunday
*Notes: Bill put our big star together and it’s now hung in the middle of hut. We’re not able to place a light in it this year but it’s a thing of Xmas beauty in our hut. It reminds me of Hope and Promise when I look at it!!
Bill had to go down the mountain and try again to get the tractor up and oil up. He had to leave water and oil off on the mountain. I’m still melting snow for water and it takes forever. Friday night I had saved dishes thinking I’d have water, then he couldn’t bring any – (even snow doesn’t satisfy our thirst) so today I did all dishes by building fire in wood stove and I melted lots of snow.
Then Bill suggested we all go out in the nice fresh snow awhile together. He brought my skis back with the new bindings on them. I’m anxious to try them. It was ever so nice all to be together out-of-doors. The children are doing so very well on the one pair of skis they share. I wish we could afford to get them all skis.
I’ve really got to learn to ski all over again. Such fun, though. I tried a few hills and didn’t fall down but sure was shaky.
Every time I go outside I fall in love with this place all over again. It’s a Shangri la indeed.
I came into my nice clean place and fixed onion soup for Bill – a juicy steak and coffee cake. Then he went down to get the two-wheel trailer with the tractor. I fed children in the trailer and then we all came back in the hut and read. Bill got back in an hour and made it this time. Oil and water – Good! All to bed early.
December 14, 1959 Monday
*Notes: Been here two weeks today. Six more to go! Sounds like forever. It’s been over a week since I’ve been ‘out’ so decided it was time we all had a change and get the two enormous duffle bags of wash done!! – Oh, how that wash piles up. Also, we all feel ever so dirty – and want baths.
I got up really easily today – I had a terrible nightmare of a snow slide and awoke at 4:00 – alarm went off at 4:30 so I got up easily. Dressed, coffee on and woke Bill. He was pleased and surprised to see me up and dressed.
Busy, busy – what a job to get children up at 4:45 A.M. They wake up so pleasantly and get dressed so nicely for so early. I’m so glad we don’t have to take them in and out to school.
We left here at 5:30 – a chilly ride in open trailer in back of the tractor – moon out and stars still bright in the sky. It takes about one hour to go down the mountain and then another twenty minutes to load what we carried down in the trailer into the Jeep and put the chains on. (It had snowed so much.) Finally on our way out, another hour to maintained Eagle River Road. Sharon snuggled close to me and was soon asleep. Children are such good sports.
To the log house – Bill hadn’t plugged in the head bolt heater on the Ford as he didn’t want to leave it on for two days. It refused to start. He hates to take Jeep in as chains have to be removed and then put on again before he can drive it ‘back in’. Also we know there’s only a certain amount of mileage left in it. He used starter fluid etc. and I tried to help him – No use. He had to take Jeep after all.
I taught children at the log house, washed clothes – at least six loads and hung wet clothes all over the house to dry but still not enough room. Later Bill put clothes lines in the front room for me. Everyone had baths and I was astonished to see how much I needed one. Oh, I hate that almost most of all.
Long underwear, wool socks not dry and still about six more loads to do – so Bill insisted we stay overnight. Once in a month is OK he says – so we did.
December 14, 1959 Monday
(never did mail this or finish it but will enclose it)
We came down to log house to do wash, take showers, etc. I have clothes hung all over the house to dry – so much wash accumulates in one week!!
This is just a note to say $15.00 check arrived and very nice long letter. Thanks!
You had written me and asked what to send so I said about skis and radio etc. Now you tell me you had already bought so I wouldn’t have wanted to do both! Oh, please, don’t spend more money. Your love is enough. I didn’t want radio and shirt too for Bill. Radio was it and if you had already bought between letters you should have told me.
If you were a millionaire but you’re not – are you? We’re not borrowing money for Xmas any more nor do we have any saved. There just isn’t any money this year.
I bought girls a knit set for 95¢ at store and so far that’s all. I am going to try to get a tea set and that’s it. I’ve tried explaining to the children. They want skis and we’re putting $5.00 towards them – we’ll see!! They cost $16.00 plus boots. John’s skis are $9.95 (reduced) but then bindings and poles – well, we’ll see!
THINGS anyways are not important. I look back at how we used to go in debt at Xmas for toys and all and then we’d fuss at them to play with the toys they never even wanted.
We’ll sing carols, make cookies, string popcorn, cut a tree and that’s our Xmas. I want to take them in to see Santa and decorations this Saturday.
Bill will be working overtime every other night again now! They’re taking $300 out of his $600 check each month – leaves $300 and we pay $135 rent plus fuel here and up there on the homestead? And gas – eat?? — You tell me. Someday – I wonder.
Must close, Love You, Mildred
December 14, 1959 Monday [written on a writing tablet cover, found with December 14th letter]
Christmas on Our Homestead
This year our Christmas will be a simple one. No costly presents will lie beneath our tree and still, when it comes it will be – the richest one we’ve ever spent – just you wait and see.
As yet we haven’t running water nor electric lights, but our humble home is filled with good cheer. It’s cozy and snug and decorated bright, awaiting Santa who soon will be here.
Our homestead is nestled amidst mountains so high, close to Santa’s Domain, the North Pole. Alaska’s brilliant Northern lights will brighten the sky guiding his sleigh through sparkling snow to our door on gala Xmas Eve night.
This year our Xmas will be a simple one but our hearts are filled with everlasting cheer. For here, at last, we’ve found ourdream and on our precious land we’ll celebrate Christ’s birthday this year.
Childish, excited voices whisper secrets from ear to ear of surprises crafted by tiny, eager hands. “Hush now, hush” they say, “You mustn’t let the others hear.” Hastily the surprises are wrapped – leaving a trail of ribbons and papers – stream of delight. Now the treasures are hidden away for the wondrous day so soon to come, to make others gay.
This year we’ll even cut our Xmas tree from the mighty stand of spruce on our own dear land. Our eyes shine bright as we go forth into the bitter cold to find our own choice tree.
Finally the Merry day is here – and just as we had anticipated it’s full of happiness and good cheer. Our fulfillment complete we’re content to await the happy prospects of another New Year.
December 14, 1959 Monday [from Mildred’s mother]
How did the weekend go! Your last letter telling me all about the double-triple layers of clothing and yet feeling cold – made me shudder. Pile the clothes on, pile them on everybody! I have visions of that snow and icicles on top of the roof. But it’s clean snow anyhow.
You ought to see this place today. It looked as clean and nice Saturday after the gardener cut and swept. But early A.M. yesterday and Saturday night the wind came in a gale. It cleared the excess, but what a mess of branches, twigs and debris after the weekend. It’s cold and clear and nice now. I didn’t dare “think” I was cold, after getting your letter.
Oh, honey, stay inside when Bill isn’t there. At least do not venture far from the Hut. Please? Charlie and I were talking about your worry when expecting Bill and he didn’t come. He said you can get “walkee-talkee” arrangements and buy batteries to be connected with the new radio – from you to him for at least three miles distance. He could talk to you from the bottom of the mountain if he couldn’t get up because of ice or because of car trouble. Investigate it. Can I get it here or can you? Ask Bill. What a relief it would be for you! It’s not knowing that is hard. Also rig one up with Mrs. Thomas, Mildred! Just that feeling you can call for help or say “Hi” when you want to!
Will return your precious letters tomorrow. Couldn’t let the “plan of the hut etc.” go until I had shown it to C. and C. Went down Saturday for supper before he left for Florida. Read your letter and showed the plans to him. He knows how courageous you are but hopes and hopes it’s not going to be too much for you and all these next two months. I’ll pray hard and you, too.
Sent off all packages air mail Friday. Don’t scold me. I wanted to be sure it all arrived on time. I’ll never get over the time that John’s things failed to reach him until after Xmas. I’ll be good and save every penny from now on – But this is MY SPREE once a year. I never go to Movies or have TV. Instead I let go at Xmas. All my love goes with the things. This is when I wish I had money to spend.
So what? No more now – just a note. Have to eat as have an evening appointment. Money is tight here – Business is quiet but all I can manage alone. These are times I’m glad I do not have any employees.
Charlie will be gone until Friday. I’ll go down there to sleep. Everyone has recovered from colds as I wouldn’t. Carolyn says I need not, but I’d just as soon this week after work. She is better and now trying to get off her bundle to Alaska. Everything was ready, but not mailed. She looks a wreck. Please be careful of yourself and yours.
I insured the packages. Hope they are acceptable. If not right sizes – ship back. Finishing John’s sock and the thumbs on mittens.
Love your letters and you. Spent all day yesterday in L.A. at Bert’s lecture. That’s why couldn’t write my Sunday letter. Sending messages every day! Love the way you arranged table and book cases etc. You need the homestead to be nearer to town – or have a helicopter. Dying to get notes in typed order for you.
Love again to a brave wonderful girl from Her Mother.
December 15, 1959 Tuesday [There is another version of this story in Mildred’s December 17, 1959 letter to her mother.]
*Notes: More of same work today at the log house as yesterday: iron, wash, vac and teach. Had the water cans all filled and everyone ready to go when Bill got home. Loaded Jeep and all – then to Market for groceries and on the road at 6:00 P.M.
*Little did we know – didn’t get HOME until 1:30 in the morning!!!
Tuesday night. What a night!!
I had planned for us to eat dinner when we got back to the homestead – so that we could leave the log house earlier. As it turned out we never had any dinner unless you could count a cold sandwich in front of the fire at the half way point on our road at midnight. No, we had no dinner.
It took ages for Bill to load the two-wheel trailer. We couldn’t even get the Jeep up the first tiny stretch of road we usually go up. Snow was so deep it hit the underneath part of the Jeep – oh, it was cold and clear.
Finally we all loaded onto the trailer but only for one minute – Bill insists we get out and walk up that first steep hill.
My, the snow was deep. It had snowed quite a few inches since Monday morning. It was all we could do to climb up the hill – then back into the trailer again. I had brought two blankets and we made a kind of tent out of them and sitting close together we were quite warm – so the snow from the overhanging branches and trees bent over from their heavy burden of snow – didn’t fall on us directly.
All was slow but sure until we hit that one miserable hill that has given Bill so much trouble. He tried it four times with no luck so then we all unloaded and Bill told us to walk ahead.
Even John who adores Alaska – tonight was fed up. Says when he’s grown he will move to a warm place. Linda felt ill she was so cold. Sharon and Cindy never complained once but I could feel Sharon’s body trembling and Cindy tried to warm her feet over the fire – No dinner – and 1:30 A.M.
Still couldn’t get it up!! Over and over he tried – oh, such grueling work for so late and cold a night. Thank goodness for the moon light which helped lighten the road.
We waited and waited – hoping and praying – not wanting to turn back and yet dreading the thought of going ahead – a half mile up the mountain at this hour. The snow was deep and even though the children were warmly dressed they were not dressed for sub-zero weather or to go hiking up a mountain in deep snow – already cold and no dinner.
Our baby kittens were up there too and we had to feed them. Bill thought if given time he could repair the tractor which a part had broken on in the struggle to get it up over the frozen earth.
I decided we’d wait and see. I gathered sticks and wood from the brittle alder trees and Bill poured a small amount of gasoline on them – soon we had a crackling fire. I got the two blankets and spread them in front of the fire. The high banks on the road sheltered us some. I got bread and ham out of the trailer and chocolate bars, donuts and coffee (which we carry with us).
For a few minutes it was nice but really lent little heat and warmth – but psychologically it seemed cozier and gave them a bright glow to warm their hearts. They ate and it diverted their minds from themselves.
After a quick bite to eat Bill went back and worked so hard.
Such a long time – we had no watch and couldn’t tell how long but I knew it was past midnight. I remembered seeing Thomas pass us at the foot of the mountain on his way home at about 9:30 and I knew he was home and asleep.
We looked around at the weird shapes the snow had made out of fallen logs, etc. We were in the ‘ghost forest’ and it was not beautiful as it is below and above. Our place is a beautiful sight in the snow – each tree lovelier than the other. But here in the alder forest it was cold, bleak and disheartening.
It took all my time to keep the fire burning and get the children to walk around – keep moving and all.
Just as I wondered if it would ever make it we heard a roar and there was “Oliver.” The rest of the ride up the mountain was a nightmare. Wet and cold we sat – not caring any longer if the snow fell on us or not. It no longer mattered.
Sharon, exhausted, fell asleep in my arms. It was all we could do to sit up on the steep hills – the boxes, oil, water cans all fell backwards – almost pushing us out of the trailer. And me with the heavy child asleep in my arms had to keep all thoughts on staying in the trailer.
On each hairpin switchback Bill had to plow the snow over and over and push it off into a corner – back and forth – and it’s no easy job to back up with the trailer in back of him – and no easy job to remain in the trailer.
Slow, oh so slow we crept through the deep snow homeward. Finally we reached the upper hills and there sat our Palace – and such it seemed to us that night. Warmth awaited us – soon we’ll have a wood fire blazing and cocoa heating on the stove and our cold, wet clothes off.
1:30 A.M. – Could it be possible that it took us six and a half hours to come 15 miles from the log house in Eagle River? No wonder Sharon fell right back to sleep. The others now had a second wind and babbled and laughed – having quickly recovered from the ordeal. Now they were home.
Bill refused to go to bed – oil to pump and then he’d leave. He said if he ever laid down he would never wake up for 10 hours. He would go back to the log house – clean up, eat, get a cat nap and go to work – to work for 12 hours.
“Oh no darling you can’t – You’ll be sick! – Please come to bed and rest.”
His mind was made up. I went to bed and was asleep in minutes and never woke up until 10:00 A.M. when children woke. He’ll stay at log house Wednesday night – and I hope sleep well and then come up here Thursday.
P.S. When we got home – two gigantic moose stood, as sentinels, on the hill behind our house – they just stood and stared and watched us.
Bill said to me, after I queried whether now he wished he were back in California. “No, even with all this tonight – I feel more alive here than I ever did back there in that smog.”
December 16, 1959 Wednesday 10:00 P.M.
*Notes: Children snug and asleep tonight in their own warm beds instead of climbing the mountain – thank God for this humble hut. It is warm – it does drip water in places – but is so much warmer than the cold trailer. We all sneeze and sneeze every time we go over there – walls and floors are so cold. BR-R-R.
Fixed fried chicken tonight and everyone ate well – and oh, how kitties enjoyed their scraps and now, they too, are asleep in their bed!
I’m darning and mending and putting patches on the children’s pants. I miss Bill coming home but I’m glad he’s not going to tackle the mountain tonight but already think how marvelous it will be tomorrow night to see him!!!
We hung our paper cut snowflakes up today by thread – they look so pretty hanging from beams of the hut. When this place is fixed up and warm it’s cozy. But every time we leave it, ice forms and drip, drip, drip – big pools of water on the floor in the entrance way and in the trailer – makes me feel like I’m living in a cave. Still – as I sit here and sew I think what a long way we’ve already come. The curtain looks pretty – beds so cozy – from last May when we climbed the mountain in the mud and slept on the floor!!
December 17, 1959 Thursday [This is the other version of the December 15, 1959 journal account above.]
See, how things go? I started this a week ago and it was never finished – let alone mailed and yet the Xmas book was mailed two days ago. Oh, well – Oh Mother, how can I ever keep you up to date? After I wrote you last – we had one terrible time.
I was already to leave the log house on Tuesday night when Bill got back. Clean clothes packed, ironing packed, water cans filled, heaters turned down, children dressed warmly except for final layer (and what a job that is). Come to find out later John had neglected to put on one extra pair of wool socks and Linda only had long underwear and one pair of flannel lined pants (must wear two here for warmth or snow pants and hers are worn out) – Well, that was important later – I have always so much to do –
Then Bill had to load the Jeep, put chains on tires, etc. – then to market and at 6:30 we left market.
I hadn’t fixed dinner on purpose so as to save time – so, remember this as I relate our ever so sad plight into the wilderness.
OK – now, I can laugh but let me tell you it was not funny at the time.
Nor, is it funny driving on that narrow Jeep road after so much snow. It’s never been plowed and just gets packed down if enough people travel over it but only three live back here now and there weren’t any tracks even to follow. It had snowed so much that it was hard to see the road and the under middle of the Jeep dragged in the snow. Bill says he’ll spend his Xmas plowing it!!
If one can get their mind relaxed enough to enjoy it – the scenery is beautiful. Here the wind seldom blows in the winter and may I add, Thank God for that!! It does, I hear, further North. The sun never really shines now at its brightest – it’s as light during the day now as it is in the middle of the night in summer – a semi-darkness, so the sun never melts the snow off the trees.
Consequently, the snow lays just where it fell and a more beautiful sight you never saw. The spruce trees are unimaginably beautiful and each log and bush takes on a different shape. The children love to guess what each looks like – rabbits, etc.
Of course, the forest in winter is always lovely – but back here it’s cleaner and purer and seems whiter than ever before!! – I do love it.
OR, was enjoying it until we passed by mud lake – remember? And Bill remarked “This is the only stretch of road where I would fear a snow slide in winter because there are just towering mountains above and a sheer drop and few trees.”
I had just been reading aloud to the children – books on Alaska and several mention snow slides.
Well, honestly I had real shivers after that! – and when we were parked waiting for Bill to load tractor and all – I glanced across the river and saw those enormous mountains across from me and could almost visualize a snow slide.
All at once I was frightened – of it all – being so isolated, being so responsible for the children – and everything.
But it can’t last OR I’d turn back –
Later, now I remember, when there was reason for fear, I never have it – or when really alone. I can have the luxury of being afraid when I’m with Bill but when I have to be responsible – I alone – I have no fear!
I keep thinking I hear Bill coming now. It’s midnight and he wasn’t home last night at all. His overtime has started again and so now he’s coming home every other night and works four hours alternate nights – whereas other men are working two hours over every night. This is his night home. I worry more over his coming home than I do our being here alone. If anything should happen to him – nobody would know! I mustn’t think things like that.
But I’m listening for that welcome sound of the tractor as I write to you – so many times my ears deceive me and like a mirage I think I hear it so I run to the door and step out – Oh, such silence! Is there any greater silence than that of a mountain in winter?
Today, while out with children – I plowed through snow waist deep (NOT 10 feet high) – yet to edge of the field – and listened. Oh, such a great, vast silence – I could only hear my own heart beat after the exertion of pushing through the heavy snows.
It’s snowed and snowed and snowed – I hope he can make it tonight.
Tuesday night (to get back) we almost didn’t make it and yet I was determined not to give up and turn back – no, no, no, no!
Bill made us walk up the first steep hill as before – the snow was ever so deep and poor Sharon had to be carried practically – but never complains – Oh, my sweetheart. The others are stalwart soldiers too.
Only, this night – more than ever before – and hear me, I don’t blame them, they did give forth with remarks such as (at a later time of which I’ll soon tell).
John “I’ll never homestead. I’ll never stay in Alaska when I get big!!” – Really, this was mostly – not because he was tired or hungry – no mention of these things – his feet were cold. He had forgotten his extra socks.
Well, stay put, dear Grandma – Sharon says she’s going to live in California and wear pretty clothes and live in a pretty house – yet she plans to marry her brother and live with me – Oh, a four year old is a wonder indeed!
Linda said she always got a tummy ache in the cold – and she had a tummy ache – poor child was hungry and cold.
Not a word from Cindy who stood so quiet but had her stocking hat pulled well over her eyes – I told them all to jump to keep warm.
But this was all when we got stuck half way up the mountain! I had brought two blankets and this night we made a tent like affair over our heads to shield us from the cold and branches hanging low with their burdens of snow, over the road, falling in our faces – to heck with the Winter Wonderland view for once – we wanted warmth. We crowded ever so close and were quite cozy – but Oh, how slow that tractor travels – until
It’s a very difficult job to drive the tractor up these mountain roads. The trailer tries to catch up with it going down and swerves to and fro coming up. It’s especially hard making those hairpin switchback turns (and we have plenty).
Well, ‘Old Oliver’ the tractor was doing just fine until it reached that one bad hill – and that’s probably where Bill is now – he got stuck there Saturday night and walked home too.
We got out and walked on – hoping against hope – that the tractor would be on behind us. No tractor and that’s when our darlings complained and as I say – no wonder -!!!
Bill finally put it to us – after one hour!! “The tractor broke down.” He could repair it – given time and try again but no guarantee he could make it. “The bolts worked fine on ice,” he said, “but I hit frozen dirt and the road was steep.”
We could go back – the trailer was loaded, the new two baby kittens were at the homestead and needed to be fed, this all would have to be repeated – and when? Bill’s overtime started the next day. We could walk on alone the half mile at midnight and so cold – “No.” He would have to come with us and return later to fix the tractor. “No.”
My decision was made – I’d build a fire in the road – And there’s more I’m afraid. It turned out that it cheered us up rather than warm us. It smoked and sputtered but never warmed but it gave the children a better feeling and I fixed practically frozen bread and ham sandwiches – and cold milk (we’d had our thermoses filled and drank them before climbing in trailer as we’d frozen for half an hour in the Jeep before getting in).
It was rather funny – I’d bought ice cream for dinner because in summer without refrigeration we never could have it – so we enjoy it occasionally now – there it was – cold ice cream – Believe me nobody wanted THAT.
As it turned out, we were there over three hours. It was way below freezing – it was pretty awful as I recall it vividly. Too vividly.
Finally the tractor got repaired and bit by bit it got over the hill – by then we didn’t care about anything. I held Sharon who fell asleep exhausted and warm – in my aching arms.
Linda said it was a nightmare – her worst – and she wanted to wake up. It felt like it.
It still was ages before we got home. At each switchback he had to go up and down, backward and forward, pushing the snow away seven or eight times before he could get around curves in deep snow and we could hardly sit up in open trailer, the oil cans, water cans and boxes all sliding and slipping.
Oh Mom, how can I tell you how wonderful it was to see our dear old humble dwelling – to us it was a palace. (There were two gigantic moose in our yard). The clock said 1:30 A.M.
I made cocoa, built a fire – Bill had oil to pump yet – I put children who, by then, as children will picked up and were raring to go – where? – Well, full of pep – except Sharon – although even she downed four cups of cocoa!
Then Bill informed me he wasn’t going to bed or he’d never wake up. I remember pleading with him to sleep but he said he’d pump the oil and start back down to the log house, take a shower, eat, and cat nap and then to work for twelve hours. I couldn’t have done it.
He’s been swell lately – and so good humored. He said, “Well, some men play golf for a hobby, others swim – I homestead – it’s my relaxation.”
I said, “Don’t you wish – now tell me really – right now you were in California?” He said NO so emphatically I believed him and then, “I feel more alive here than I ever did there in the smog.” (I knew what he meant).
I slept until 11:00 the next morning and so did the kids. I haven’t seen Bill since. It seems it’s snowed ever since then and I wouldn’t be surprised if even the Jeep can’t get through [on the lower road].
I’ve been busy today. I’ve had to get several new feet of snow shoveled and especially cleared off hut so roof won’t cave in – teach kids – baked cake (from scratch and good) plus puddings – expected Bill home and wanted good things for him to eat.
— Now I’m tired – It’s 1:00 A.M. and I’ll lie down, I guess and wait. I’ll write more soon. We’re all fine – this darn thing leaks though – several sections are real bad and the entrance leaks terrible too – but could be worse. I’m always glad for IT when I come in from wilderness outside.
It’s really lovely here though. We read a lot – and it’s snug and warm. This hut is so well insulated – it’s amazing to me how warm it is. It looks more and more like an igloo as snow banks up high around it.
Three packages from you but I left them at log house to avoid temptation. You’re a darling and I love you! Good night, ME — Save this
December 17, 1959 Thursday
*Notes: Once your heart has been captured by the wilderness you will never again be able to be confined to the city and its limited space.
As I read in the Alaskan books about the traders and dog mushers of past days, here in Alaska – I can truly understand why they really liked the life they led — free from restrictions and limited to their own resourcefulness and one with the Alaskan outdoor world they so loved.
December 18, 1959 Friday
*Notes: Bill got up the mountain and home last night at 1:15 A.M. again. He brought the radio from Mom! It’s playing now. How civilized it sounds. Thanks, thanks
Have done all painting in the hut I’ll do until after Xmas — old Army beds are turquoise enamel – look so different – lower half of bed
December 20, 1959 Sunday
*Notes: (Bill said at least now when he has trouble on the road in winter he knows I’m here when he gets up the mountain – warmth and food!!)
I expected Bill home early morning – hasn’t been home for two nights (as agreed upon so I’m not worried over him) – probably had more tractor trouble, then too so much more snow has fallen this time – a wet, wet snow and in staggering amounts.
I’m writing this as I rest for a few minutes – have been shoveling snow. Up until now I’ve let snow pile up on sides of hut as someone told me it would act as insulation but yesterday while painting the inside canvas I saw the snow was melting under the canvas and the water was running onto the many boxes stored near the lower side of the hut. What a mess! I have books etc. in those boxes and had to unpack everything and store them in different places according to contents. Of course the canvas drips from above too, in places and is in general a damp mess – but much better than — ? Well, outside it looks like an igloo but inside it’s warm and cozy despite all.
Anyways I’ve been cleaning snow off canvas – I don’t want it to cave in on us and from the sides of hut. I’m truly exhausted. It’s a heavy laborious job as the wet snow is heavy and much ice too. I can’t get to the snow on top of the hut!
(2:30 P.M. Bill got home – has been trying to get up since 7:30 A.M. when he was at the foot of the mountain. Finally had to leave trailer and come up will have to go back down and try again. The darling – such determination – even his parka was wet through and through!)
We celebrated my Birthday [34th], which is tomorrow, tonight.
Little moments, so treasured and so sweet to remember — these are the real things that count. Each child taking a turn stirring the frosting and the radio (still, such a wonder) playing Xmas songs – and Sharon throwing back her head and laughing at Santa’s reindeer singing –
I made an angel food cake and it was perfect! High and fluffy – Birthday tablecloth and our canned spaghetti and pork was a banquet.
The children gave me lovely slippers and Sharon could hardly contain herself – she wanted to tell so badly – how she loves a party. Her eyes shone in anticipation. An hour earlier she had said, “Mommy will you invite me to your party?” – As if she wouldn’t be invited!!
As they sang Happy Birthday my eyes filled with tears and of course my wish was that we all remain well and that next year our Homestead will be ours!!
We put the Xmas tree up – Bill had a special one – not large, not small, really just right – all picked out in our lower field. He said he plowed around it on purpose – saving it for Xmas. We’ve always had such big trees – but we’ve never before lived crowded like this – but it still didn’t look just right, so I put it on our round redwood coffee table and now it’s perfect. I put aluminum foil around its base and our little Xmas village on it. The presents can go on the long coffee table on the right of it.
The wonder of a Xmas tree will never, never grow old. The fragrance alone brings back many nostalgic memories of my own childhood – and each decoration brings back memories of other Xmases in California – the one we got on our first baby’s first Xmas – this Xmas I’d meant to buy several new ones just to remember our first Xmas on our homestead, but next year – I won’t be leaving here until 1960!!
The children went to bed happy and contented – with their own memories of anticipation of Xmas. They are counting each day.
After Bill ate lunch he returned down the mountain and got the trailer up – with groceries, mail, etc. All so welcome.
Oh, I hate to think of him leaving so soon tomorrow. Why I’ve only seen him for a few hours. Yet I can’t bear to think of him coming up that mountain when not necessary. We agreed for him to come Thursday. It seems a long time away but maybe he can get some rest at the log house – working overtime and all!!
I surely hope Bill is right and he’s not required to be here. I’ll check next time I am in town!!
I’m a worry wart over our homestead!
December 21, 1959 Monday
*Notes: Well, somehow we managed to get up at 4:30 – have breakfast and Bill left. It’s warm today and lovely with a slight breeze. Well, that would be a Chinook.
I was rather startled when I opened the door to see Santa greet me (the wooden one). Bill won’t be up now until Thursday afternoon! First one day, then two away now three. Well, it’s gradual and not so hard to take that way! But oh, how I hated to see him leave – but I also hate to think of him taking that mountain more than he has to and working overtime too – it’s an impossibility. He was so tired last night!! — Battling that mountain road all day –
But after lunch yesterday at 3:00 he returned – plowed the road and did manage to get the trailer up – with groceries, two new kerosene lamps (good!!). We noticed on the box it said “for decorative purposes or emergency only” – no mention of practical use – homesteaders even in Alaska are becoming extinct.
Candles, red and green – the house (?) looks prettier and more Xmasey all the time!
I told Bill he’s a true Santa this year in the true sense of the word. I’m afraid if I ‘go out’ I won’t get ‘back in’ so I’ll stay put until after January. Anyways – I need to go sometime when we could start back here in daytime. With Bill working Saturdays – I’ll have to wait.
December 21, 1959 Monday
It’s been a long day – got up with Bill at 4:30 this morning – then was wide awake and we were having such a terrific windstorm that I couldn’t have gone back to sleep even if I had wanted to. This has been our first severe wind since returning this time. Luckily, it’s a “CHINOOK” – which means a midwinter thaw, warm winds and temperature goes up above freezing and the warm winds blow like mad. It’s really odd. When inside the hut and you hear the wind whistling down the valley and in and around the canyon. Then it hits the hut and the end our bed is on really flaps like sails on a ship. The windows rattle and then it’s hard to realize it’s a warm wind as it sounds like a blizzard! The recently fallen snow whips around on our clearings and piles in high drifts.
I went outside and watched the snow blowing on the mountain tops above our hut. It looked like a sand storm and the snow and wind gained momentum from time to time and the snow really flew up there above the timber line.
It was good to be inside and know we had the trailer to go into if the hut blew away – at least its walls don’t shake!
But one good thing – the warm temperature and winds blew all the snow off the hut and released all the heavy icicles and ice on the trailer that I couldn’t budge yesterday. It’s all gone! And believe me there was a lot of snow in the middle of the hut and trailer roofs where I couldn’t reach!
We had a nice, quiet day. Oh, Mother, I feel such love for our children and it breaks my heart tonight that I won’t have presents to give them. I’m sitting here listening to Xmas songs on the marvelous radio – Oh, how we love it – the music is gorgeous and heart rending sometimes too.
I wish I could put down on paper all that’s in my heart! I truly feel we have been ever wrong in the past to charge our Xmas presents (it’s never been extravagant but always more than we could afford) – or to borrow money to buy presents and we will never do it again.
When we came to Alaska we had so many wonderful ideas about getting entirely away from a materialistic way of life – and yet oh Mother such courage it takes. We’ve been here two Xmases so far and both times I’ve relented and bought far more than we could afford – once even borrowed from the Finance Company.
Why, last year Sharon never used her doll carriage, Linda never used her doll bed and now they’re stored away. And so it went. We wanted to give to them because we felt such a tremendous surge of Xmas love for them – I’d give those children my eyes – but Oh Mother in a way we were selfish. We really wanted pleasure to see them pleased – and they weren’t especially. Now, you know they’re grateful and appreciative. I don’t mean that. They just didn’t want or need those toys. Even now they have too much and I end up crabbing at them to play with their toys, pick up their toys, etc.
Now I want to give them what they’re really ready for and let them really want it. They themselves admit they don’t really want anything.
If I had money – which is so distressing because we have none – I’d buy skis, ice skates and slippers for each and snow pants.
The trouble is Mom, we don’t have any money and I got stranded up here and I couldn’t shop and I’m forced to try the kind of Xmas I’ve always felt was RIGHT. I’m so afraid our children will be disappointed and I’d die (like all other parents) rather than have that on Xmas. Why, I couldn’t stand it.
(11:00 P.M. Radio station says its Miami weather at the station, 35° and if you wish to join them bring your own fan.)
Bill’s brought home a few little things and I thought I’d wrap them, and Oh Mother, there isn’t anything. My heart is breaking – Xmas spirit I guess – but if I could get off the mountain I’d join the crazy throng somehow and get those kids a Xmas. But I can’t and if I did I don’t have money and I won’t charge anything. We’ve consolidated our loans and they take $300 out per month. Bill just paid the rent on the log house I’m not using and there’s nothing left.
I bought several dollar knit sets and a weave set for the girls and had Bill buy John a few tools. Bill on his own bought a 50¢ model airplane and two puzzles and Oh Mother, the awful truth is That’s It.
I’ve spent a week decorating our homestead and if I do say so it’s beautiful – everywhere is Xmas. Today, we finished decorating our tree – it’s a beauty. Bill plowed around it last year just saving it for Xmas – perfectly proportioned, thick and lovely. Our cards are up – our black metal card holder is on the back door of hut – colorful and pretty. The children have made paper angels, trees, santas, reindeer, etc which decorate the place – well we love it and it’s Xmas.
We’ve read Xmas stories and I’ve explained the true meaning of Xmas. Our manger scene is up and we’ve read the Xmas story over and over. Darling children – they all adore their Jesus and Sharon speaks of God’s beautiful face and Mother Mary who was so good. As I’ve told them, any millionaire can hire someone to shop for him but a thoughtful gift, no matter cost – if any – really means more – as it’s a gift of love.
We’re all so grateful for each other, for our health, for our homestead and the privilege of living in a land – such as America – where we are able to homestead. We’re grateful for the home we’ve created on this wilderness mountain where no home of any kind was last year. Even the moose gaze wonderingly at me outside our door – hardly able to believe their eyes. I’m grateful to you Mother – for your love, thoughtfulness and encouragement and guidance – for Bill, my love and our children – so dearly loved –
But can they, little children, understand – we’ll see!
Tomorrow we’ll bake – gingerbread men – big ones – sugar cookies, cut in Xmas shapes (I have my sweet cutters). We’ll decorate them – pop corn, string it – make more paper snowflakes to hang with the other fifteen suspended from our hut roof. They’re so lovely and all such unusual shapes, no two alike. And we’ll MAKE presents – if the joy is in giving no matter what cost – then we’ll try it.
I’ll make doll clothes from craps, knit socks, mittens….doll blankets – a doll bed from a box – a castle from an oatmeal box – they have so much – the log house is full to overflowing with toys seldom played with anymore – they have so many dolls – I think in a way they’ve been like poor little rich children and they love to create. I’ll put my thinking cap on and see what we come up with and each has $5.00 towards skis and we’ll save the rest!! And then I’ll pray for a Merry Xmas. There have been Xmases when many presents were beneath our tree – and yet it wasn’t a relaxed, happy one. We’ll try an Alaskan Homestead Old Fashioned Xmas. Already today John saw in his Cub Scout book how to make candied apples. We’ll see and now I’ll knit!
I can’t help but look back to the time, not too long ago, when gifts were important to me – no longer. I have my gifts!! This land has taught me so much and one of the most important is patience – not to stop working and striving and planning and hoping but to be patient meanwhile.
I know it’s up to ME to be happy Xmas day – I set the mood, if I’m happy they will be happy – if I act discontented and unhappy our day will be so and it won’t – I promise you our Xmas will be a happy one and they’ll treasure their few gifts I know!!! I love you! Mil
December 22, 1959 Tuesday
*Notes: 1:00 A.M. — This seems to be my usual bedtime now. I like to stay up late so I’m so tired I go right to sleep!! And then I keep busy every minute and that way I miss Bill less.
The wind has blown all day and in places the drifts are as high as my shoulders! It looks like the desert outside the way the snow has blown. You can hear the roaring noise of it (at first the children thought it was thunder) and then it hits us and the hut blows and the canvas sides sway. It really gives a person an eerie feeling and makes us all uneasy! I have a fervent prayer on my lips that we all stay well for I don’t know if we could make it down to the Jeep road in this wind. The snow stings your face. It actually whistles as it blows!! I pray and trust God through all this and I know He’ll hear my prayers.
And the children’s prayers too. Tonight instead of Sharon’s usual prayer she said, “And Dear God thank you for our homestead and your helping us with it. Dear God thank you for my other children and for Mommy and Daddy whom I love.” My own dear heart. She’s an angel herself, at times an exasperating one – but my angel nevertheless.
They were all angels today and patient as could be – but they loved it! I let them help make rolled cookies cut out in numerous Xmas shapes. Each child did one tray of his or her own and chose their cutters etc. and later we made red, green and white frosting and green and red candles to decorate them with – oh, such care, such time it took and such delight.
How I wished for flash bulbs to capture their expressions. So serious, so intent and then so delighted with their work of art. And they were, too. We laughed and talked and it was fun even though it took all afternoon. Then I made snicker doodle cookies. Each child chose their best cookie and wrapped it up as a Xmas gift for Daddy and I did too – so there will be gifts.
Last night I got to thinking about my love for him and all and I wrote three separate notes on each emphasizing gifts of the heart I can give him and labeled them 1, 2, 3 in order. Then today I decorated cookies too and put some along with the cards in packages – Crazy? Maybe but he’ll know I thought about him and I think he’ll be rather pleased.
We decided that this year we wouldn’t tell him we made cookies (although each year I make five or six kinds) and then we’ll surprise him on Xmas with our lovely decorated cookies. Tomorrow I’ll make foot high gingerbread men, pies and cakes.
I decided today after talking it over with the children, to tell our Sharon about Santa and the Xmas spirit. I think it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The others were told early but not until five and then only because they asked too many questions and were so suspicious. But Sharon believes so firmly and is awaiting his arrival with such wondrous anticipation. But how disappointed she’ll be when there aren’t any Xmas gifts from Santa and there aren’t. I feel Bill won’t get any. I had to tell her. Now SHE knows.
Cindy brought over carol books all by herself and while cookies baked we sang Xmas carols. A real memory, while snow piles higher and higher outside the trailer.
IX. Does silence have a noise?
December 22, 1959 Tuesday 10:00 P.M. [from Mildred’s mother]
Before I close my eyes tonight I’m going to get off a letter to tell you how thrilled I am even at the prospects that “you might get down to California in February” Having a definite date to dream about makes weeks going faster and easier, anyhow. So we’ll dream and pray the dream may become a reality. How you all have earned it we know. Don’t be afraid of disappointment for me if it doesn’t work. Think of the JOY if it does!
Also very much relieved to know Bill can come with you since I know how you feel about flying. I was thrilled to death. Carolyn said: “I have goose pimples all over me from you even reading it.” (She’s the same old Carolyn!) She is terribly hopeful, Charlie too. Though I haven’t seen them long this week. I’m nursing a cold – but feel fine today.
Naturally I appreciate your letters – every one is precious. I’ll send every one back for a record. You will keep them at the log house or where? Be sure they are safe. They are priceless. I wish we had two records – to be sure. That’s how I value them all. Have more packed in a box ready to ship right after Xmas when budget is stronger. People are holding out – not paying. Not buying either! But those letters must be preserved carefully somewhere.
These reports of the struggles up the mountain are terrific. It frightens me to read when I think of those turns this summer. I never did like that narrow road by Mud Lake where we got stuck that time. I don’t see how you know where you are half the time. Anyhow there you just have to hug the side of the hill and you know you are safe.
Though, honey, I pray hard for God to send protecting angels to show you the way and keep you. I know He does. I know He will. You must trust God when you are alone there, Mil, as far as humans are concerned, for God is with you, if you trust and call on him. The experience the other night was terrific, but you were protected then, I know.
Please, please do not walk around the cabin in the snow when you are alone — without Bill. Suppose you fell in the snow? Stay put with the children, please. Only a few weeks left to go! You may never again have such joyous weeks of companionship with the children as you can have now. They grow up so fast. They fly away so far!!
And don’t forget it either. “Love them while you have them, dear.”
Weren’t their conversations normal and cute and “right” after the session! On the road the other night! I think they are just wonders! And you and Bill are unbelievable!
May it be a Happy 1960 for you!
I don’t see how you get by on the tight budget. I hate myself these days for being so stupid money-wise. I really do. You MUST get that book out in near future while Alaska is still in the air! A summer project for you perhaps. It will work out in your mind, when you get that title in your hand.
When I saw those lovely snapshots again I was taken back quickly to the happy days there last summer. Even the cottage at the top of the hill looked cute and natural. Oh what a place. All for a road. Yet if there was a good road, the crowd would run up as you saw last summer. A good Jeep with right gadgets on tires for Bill is the answer. Then let the others find ways up too.
Anyhow I love you all for your faith, courage and pluck. You would never imagine that you could do all this that anyone could, until you have proved it to yourselves.
I’m going to send off a wee practical New Year’s box to you – with this and that. May come in handy – whether at Homestead or at Log House!
My bestest present in the world will be the “Xmas Book.” Tell them so. I have it on display in the Study on top of the Bookcase where I put the cards this year. I showed it off, page by page, to my little third grader who comes once a week for help on her reading. She liked it too. I showed it to C. and C. “C.” wanted to know about your notes earlier of the Homestead. It’s good, Mil. I shall write to each one about it all. But, the combined gift was a great thought. It is a real Xmas Book!
You must do some more sketches for me to keep, if you feel like it. I never could do any, so appreciate them all the more. You got the perspective just right with rolling hills and background mountains. Even the reins. Do more sometime.
But more graphic and vivid are your “word pictures,” Mildred, of these experiences and the scenery and the silence. It just brings me close to share it all with you. How that tractor works at all I do not know. How you all “make it” in open trailer, I do not know at all, at all. Oh if I only knew you had enough fuel, enough wood; no leaks! If I only knew you could get up and down safely, I’d be happy as a bird. How can those adorable little sports walk in that snow?
I’m enclosing a piece clipped from Examiner tonight that says that “Exposure, Exertion Produce No Colds.” They come from germs or from cold feet. It says “Chilling brings on the common cold.” So watch those two pairs of stockings. Hope and pray they did not get sick from those three hours Tuesday night. Will mail little box of Lipton’s soup (package) tomorrow for the warm-up times when you get home! How WONDERFUL you all are! This paper explains so well about colds. That’s why everybody is sick with Flu Bug again this week – going around schools and to homes. Carolyn was going to have Grace, Elsie, Marietta and friends in this evening, but Grace called this A.M. to say her whole family was sick in bed with the flu germ – So you see what “crowds” do.
Anyhow I pray it will not happen again. If I think you had wood etc. and even beans, rice and soup – I won’t worry if Bill doesn’t get home every night.
But darling stop the straining to hear. Stop going out like that to look and to see. That’s what will chill you; and wear you down. It’s not safe – and brings him no sooner. You must keep well and happy mentally. It’s bad enough when your old tractor breaks down, but don’t worry about it while it is running. Know what I mean?
Also – I got “stuck” in the snow in front of our house when it was “waist-deep” that night. I couldn’t move one way or the other. [Again talking about Boston times.] Stay in shoveled paths. Keep John and children right near you.
Oh Mil just think this won’t be for the whole long winter – that’s bright to think about. It’s temporary isolation. But I wouldn’t go up and down any oftener than I could help – just to save wear on the tractor etc.
I know how hard it must be on you to be isolated with the children. Oh I wish you had a rag rug going on – now – for a project – while you wait at night – and cannot have bright lights to read by. Thankful radio works. Never think about that. I was so thrilled over it. Remember I mentioned that this summer?
“Waiting” is the hardest job in the world I guess for us. It takes “Patience” all the while.
Sleep as much as you can while they sleep. Do not see how you can relax, and worry over Bill. Any chance on him rigging up a “walkee-Talkee”? He could talk from bottom of mountain if he couldn’t get up all the way.
What about Thomas? How often does he get home? Are they using dog sleds?
Your Christmas Poem is grand. I read it every day. I’m going to make a typed copy of it to return to you. I want to keep the original. Oh Mil, you’ll have all my old letters. And I liked to go back and read them to know what happened last April, May etc. You MUST get it all fixed up when they get back to school. One month at a time! So much to talk about when you get down, dear.
“We’ll Really Celebrate,” Carolyn says. And of course I do too!
Glad for Bill’s overtime. Glad you have the radio when you are alone and children sleep. But they say that sleep and rest keep you young and beautiful – so keep the children’s sleeping hours. You’ll be less lonely too. Bill can wake you, you know! Better than having you worn out with worry, darling.
How Bill manages to handle those machines I do not know. He is a wonder. He is paying a stiff price, with you, for that homestead. But I guess that this fight with snow is better than with rushing waters.
Thank God for the school routine. That keeps children occupied. Glad for it. Hope the teachers appreciate the struggle and make allowances. Probably do not. People!
Going to court in morning as witness in a divorce case for wife of a doctor here in Pasadena. She has been a client for a year. Perhaps I told you. He certainly is a [can’t read word] and openly lived and lives with another woman, who was her friend, and a member of her church. People! So I’d better stop writing and get to sleep. Case comes up at nine o’clock.
Almost Christmas now. Praying all are well and safe and warm. Then my Christmas will be completely happy. We must trust and have faith – and pray that all will be well for the few weeks ahead. My dears how happy I’ll be IF it can ever be that the trip works out. But you have until May 7th, even if you don’t get all your time in now. Each day – we’ll do the best we can. We can do no more.
Tell John I ran out of yarn for his sock. Bought more yesterday, will madly knit more socks, I guess. I have the yarn. Please tell me the measured length for socks they wear (each one). Carolyn says this pair will be too small for John, but I got the measurement from the woman in the department store stocking section. Tell me the truth about these socks, please.
One week more and it’s January 1st! A month out of the way? I hope!
I know and can see in my mind’s eye those shining faces in the cabin on the top of the mountain. If I only had a thousand dollars for us now – or even five hundred!
But all the money can’t bring health, happiness, or love. Let’s hold those and we can get the money.
May 1960 be Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous. Love and kisses, loads to all – from Mother
December 22, 1959 Tuesday
An open letter to ‘The People’ of Chugiak and Eagle River, c/o Mrs. Tuck:
I am writing this letter to you now because my son just informed me that you told Bill several weeks ago at the Market that ‘people’ were saying I wasn’t living on our homestead.” Perhaps you can inform these ‘people’ of the truth. These ‘people’ are probably the ones who never would homestead on their own and just can’t believe that ‘a city gal’ like me has the nerve to live up here in the mountains in mid-winter with four children – well, how wrong they are!!
The children and I have been living here again since December 1st. We had hoped to ‘set up residence’ to live here three weeks or so sooner and had even moved back here but we were only here three days and had to leave. We did not notify the land office that we were living here until December 1st.
After I took the children out of school I taught them and remained at the log house – still trying to get back up here. We were not able to because deep ridges of glacial ice had formed on our mountain road, making it impassable even for a tractor! We didn’t have enough food or oil at our homestead or we would have walked the mountain road to get here!!
Finally Bill put bolts on the tractor treads and we were barely able to get back here. The night you saw John at the Market (a week ago Tuesday) we were barely able to get back. (I like to ‘go out’ once a week to shop, wash, etc.) Over a week ago we were stuck on the mountain half way up our mile of mountain road in the middle of the night for three hours! It was 1:30 A.M. we got home and we left the Market at 6:30. We have not been OUT since not even to Xmas shop.
Bill came up Sunday with supplies etc. He arrived at the foot of the Mountain at 7:30 A.M. and got home at 2:30 P.M.
The snow in places is up to my shoulders now. The wind has blown for 48 hours and it’s a real experienced to live in a canvas Jamesway in high winds – the sides flap and you feel as if it’s about to take off. The snow has piled up in drifts – blowing across our fields like a desert. Now the wind has ceased and it’s snowed all day again. Bill hasn’t been up since Sunday and we expect him Thursday – but we never know!
Bill sleeps at the log house most of the time – as he’s working over-time. The land office only requires the wife and family to live on the land.
We will have been here six months on January 1st and will remain here until total [residency time completed] on February 1st.. (If I had my way I’d never leave!)
But there are hazards – if the children got sick I don’t know how we’d get out! These last two days the snow has really piled up and it’s a long walk!
My mother sent us a transistor radio for Xmas and it’s our only contact with civilization. Bill can now send a message to me over the ‘Mukluk Telegraph’ but I can’t contact anyone in the outside world. Only one other family is here days – Thomas and they live one mile down the mountain and one mile beyond Pollards. Pullens also live in here but all go out to Anchorage every day. Otherwise everyone has moved out.
We hadn’t planned to live here this time of year – but that’s the way it worked out. We are here and we are making the best of it –.
Our homestead means more to us than mere words can ever tell! We’ve wept over it, we’ve struggled over it, we have stood in awestruck wonder at the magnificence and beauty of it – we’ve walked (dragged) in mud to reach it and slept on the floor when we’ve gotten here – now it’s our home. We have no desire to ever live elsewhere – than here – in the home we’ve created in the wilderness and will only because its location necessitates us to – but our hearts are here!
We have a lovely tree up – no lights as we haven’t electricity. It’s prettily decorated and we’ve made most of the presents beneath it! The children have made many decorations from paper and our humble home looks like a Xmas palace to us!!
Strange yes — for ‘a city gal’ like me to feel like this and like living here? Yes, but I do and right now I now extend a personal invitation to all the “people” who say we’re not living here – (and everyone) to come and visit us – if they can!!!!! We’re located 8 miles beyond the end of Eagle River [Homestead] Road – and up one mile– at 1500 feet elevation. Any time will be fine, we’re always here!!
Come and see for yourself!
December 23, 1959 Wednesday
*Notes: Third night alone!!! I am melting snow for the second day for water.
No more wind. High drifts. Lots more SNOW!! It really snowed last night and was so deep on the oil drums outside the windows I couldn’t see out at all. I had quite a time getting it off of the hut, a job I did even before getting breakfast so the roof won’t cave in.
Children are out to play – really had fun in deep, deep snow playing they’re snowshoe rabbits and wolves etc. and each has snow house like in the book, ‘Pinnacle Mountain’ we’ve been reading and oh, what fierce growls. Our Pinnacle Mountain is really white.
A full day today indeed. This morning we all finished making Xmas presents for one another and wrapped them amidst great secrecy. I made pads covered with flowered material and stuffed with foam rubber I had handy. A pillow sheet and pillow case of same material for dolls’ bed, then a doll nightie and diaper – cute!
(None of the children feel well and all have diarrhea quite badly and upset stomachs – really for third day but worse today – John just plain doesn’t feel good and was sick at thought of food.) I pray he’ll get better tomorrow – I don’t want them sick for Xmas and it scares me up here to have them sick.
They’re all so thrilled with Xmas! We read Xmas stories made more snowflakes and hung them up. Sharon made Xmas place mats – all decorated herself!! John covered little egg containers with aluminum foil and made bells. We hung them up on red paper, turned out really pretty….
(I’m getting to be a real old hand with Coleman lamps and all now!)
These have been happy days and I’m exhausted (a nice kind) at night time. I do miss Bill and I’m so glad he’ll be home tomorrow! Though I just can’t see how he’ll ever get through the drifts and snow. It has snowed all day and it’s really deep.
Today John told me that when he and Bill were at the store they saw Mrs. Tuck and she said “people” say we’re not living here. That hurts and it’s also maddening. I wrote a long open letter to the people c/o Mrs. Tuck – but what’s the use really. I’ve thought of putting an announcement in the paper that we’re living here but if they don’t wish to believe what can I do. Nobody sees us here – how can we prove it? These things worry me. I suppose they see the lights on in the log house when Bill comes back and they think it’s me. Yet I haven’t even been OUT for two weeks Tuesday!
After kids in bed tonight I decided to make them the ‘promised’ foot high gingerbread men. What a job. But now they’re made and put away plus dozens more Xmas cookies.
Oh, I love Xmas. It’s a joyous, happy time, yet a time for deep sentiment and remembering. Especially here – everything is so different and somehow so fundamental and real. One reason I like it here, despite the hardships (like melting snow all day for all our water – even to wash all the rolled cookie dishes – sticky and messy but worth it, I’m sure!!) is because of the way I feel when I’m here. It’s hard to explain but I like it plus I feel I’m really doing something worthwhile and I like being and feeling so close to our children. Yet, I know for everyone’s sake the other is better for everyone for a steady diet but I never want to forget these days!!!!!
12:15 – so it’s Xmas Eve – Oh, this radio is so nice!!
I pray the children will be well tomorrow and Bill will get home with less difficulty than usual and please dear God let people KNOW we’re doing this the most honest way possible!! It means a lot to me – and as dear Sharon says in her prayers, “Help us with our homestead.”
No snow today
What a clear marvelous day – a real white Xmas!!
Bill surprised us by getting home at 11:00 A.M. He says he worked extra last night so he wouldn’t have to go in at all today.
Got about one hundred feet with the tractor close to home – and got tired of fighting snow drifts (he says the wind never blew below!!!) and walked the rest of the way. We never heard him come as we had Xmas carols on the radio. What a marvelous welcome sight and so good to have him with us!
He brought cards – (and presents from Mrs. Erickson – how very thoughtful and sweet!!!) and from Mrs. Bockstahler for everyone plus a birthday present! How wonderful to have such friends.
He’s a real Santa Claus – cards from California plus letters and notes enclosed – all mean more than ever this year!!!!
How good to have him hold me tight. We’re not meant to be separated. Then I hurried to melt snow for coffee. Then we all went out together. I took several rolls of film – a lovely day – Bill plowed around the hut and trailer – such a difference and then the road – flat part – and we could walk around without walking in waist deep snow for me, even. They tried to sled but the sleds sink in snow! Still had so much fun making snow forts in big piles of snow Bill pushed aside with tractor – and castles. I can still hear Sharon say, “I’m the King!”
Smokey loved having them out. She ran and jumped, her tail wagging happily. She gets lonesome out by herself.
We set our wooden Santa and figures up. I tried the other day but wind blew them down and in matter of minutes and covered them with flying blowing snow. How Xmasey and festive they look. I set Santa and angels outside the trailer – across the road – so we can see them from the trailer window as we eat.
Well, better go and write more later. I am in the middle of giving melted snow baths – two down and one to go BUT the children must be clean on Christ’s Birthday!!! (Even if I melt snow to do it!)
Bill has been gone – was only home for one hour or so – to plow a mile of road – load trailer from Jeep (bought turkey!!) and bring it back.
I want baths over and supper ready when he gets back so more later.
December 26, 1959 Saturday
*Notes: Nice clear day, colder, no snow. Temperature had dropped today and snow was drier and crunched beneath your feet. I like it better this way and you don’t get damp and wet-cold when it is colder like this! Today I said ‘heck with fussing around the house take a holiday’. All of us went outside. The children are so happy to be outdoors and to have Daddy home. I decided for the first time to go off on my skis alone for awhile. Such enjoyment – nice to be off awhile by myself and I wasn’t at all afraid to ski over to the embankment overlooking the creek alone. The snow was just perfect – dry and powdery for skiing. Every little way I had to stop and gaze around at the beauty all around me.
Every time I get outside here it makes me feel so silly to worry over the little daily happenings in the bit of civilization we’ve brought up to this remote spot with us. We are but tiny ants really so insignificant – perhaps if I could see OUT of our trailer and hut I could feel this all day but I feel so shut inside the place – without windows to capture the view, even in part. The view of the water of Kink Arm is ever changing as the sun sets. One moment one of the lavender splendor and the next wreathed in rose. How close I always feel to God here. Mrs. Bockstahler referred to this place as ‘Celestial Heights’ in her recent letter and it truly is a heavenly spot.
It was a new sensation and a very nice one to make the first tracks across the white stretches of unbroken white snow in our fields. Smokey following close behind so contented and happy that we two were alone on a walk. These moments are never to be forgotten.
As I got further away from our hut and the children’s voices became fainter and fainter the moose trails became more and more frequent. As I got to the bank where I could gaze down on the still-rushing unfrozen creek down into the valley spread out below and Thomas’ homestead so tiny below me and hear their sled dogs howling echo and reecho among the hills – the tracks were very frequent and places where they had bedded down the night before were all about me.
In one place the moose droppings in its trail were still steaming. I looked about me but no moose in sight. As I absorbed the stillness and beauty about me I was once again entranced and dedicated my life to our homestead forever more – such love – no, something I can’t even call love – surged from within me – such a kinship for this strange unknown land that one would expect would frighten me and upset me by its mere isolation and coldness – instead I feel such at ONE with this place – everything about it appeals to me – oh, for words to be able to fully express the way I feel.
I only wish I never had to leave it, not even to return to the log house [in Eagle River] which holds no appeal to me.
As I skied back I kept telling myself I would find a way to remain here and watch the days now grow longer – the sky grow brighter until the snows melted and spring came again to our beloved mountain regions. How can I leave, how can I tear myself away again – and how will I ever know a moment’s rest until this beloved land is truly ours – all ours?
I skied down below the flat land and crossed the mountainous hills below our place where it’s still heavily wooded beneath our clearings and the high mountain peaks are almost obliterated. I like the wooded regions but once again was glad that Bill chose the open valley above to live in.
I came across one spot that made me smile and chuckle aloud. Signs before me showed a moose had hurried down the mountain – perhaps rushing from Smokey’s bark. The snow was so deep and all it looked as if the moose had slid on its stomach and the prints were far apart. What a sight that must have been!
I would like to become more familiar with the cold quiet of the Alaskan winter days and have the time and opportunity to discover the secrets of the wild life around me. Study their tracks, their habits, etc.
In some spots my foot slipped out of the skis so my leg sank to the ground beneath me – the snow came clear to my waist and it was quite a feat to get back on the skis.
I have become so unused to outdoor exercises and so unaccustomed to manipulating skis that by the time I came out on the road I was truly quite tired – but that nice kind of tiredness that always comes from good outdoor exercise – and such a thrill to know I had not even been off our land!!
Down at the log house I remember trying to ski about and feeling rather silly as I was in view of all my neighbors and could scarcely go 100 feet without being on someone else’s property.
As I came down the road I could see the girls playing on their snow castle. Sharon came running down the road holding her big blue balloon that Santa sent and her long blue and white stocking cap askew with the long white tassels bobbing up and down – that Grandma in California had lovingly knitted for her youngest granddaughter to keep her warm on the long Alaskan winter. Such a sweet sight and it came to me that she was everything a child should be and so completely absorbed in her own activity and so content with her childish play
It sounded so good to hear Bill about the place. I wish we could all be together for this period – like other homesteaders. This place needs a man about.
Coleman lamp to fill – already dark although only 3:00 in the afternoon. Baked mince pie – all came in cold and hungry – good meal – then sat down at table in the hut to try out some games in Treasure Chest of games Mrs. Eklund sent us.
Girls put on Chinese kimonos Carolyn sent and looked so cute sitting there. We played checkers and then BINGO. It was fun and even Sharon was able to do her part – calling out to Daddy the scorekeeper. I had that number – her face beaming. Being together – how very nice!!!
December 27, 1959 Sunday
*Notes: Clear nice day. All out of water today – and just didn’t feel like melting any more snow than absolutely necessary so let dishes pile up and house work slide today!
Bill worked with John on his model plane and we girls sewed and knitted this afternoon – real lazy nice day.
This morning Bill and I talked at great length about our future plans which are at this time so very indefinite! I just wish I could stay here – yet we both feel the children’s schooling is of utmost importance – also that he keep a good record at work – if only this place were easier to get to – yet, in a way, that’s the beauty of it! Neither of us want to live elsewhere THIS is what we came to Alaska for! Well, time will work these things out. Went to bed much too late and the alarm goes off at 4:00 A.M.!
December 28, 1959 Monday
*Notes: It’s amazing how the weather up here in the mountains can vary within a few hours’ time. It was so clear, then the wailing wind came up and each gust hit with renewed force – then it started snowing – next time about one hour later when I started getting more snow to melt for baths the stars were out! No sign of wind or snow!! All within several hours’ time.
10:30 P.M. — Bill returned to work and came in this morning to tell me that a marvelous display of Northern Lights would light his way this morning so early!! He plans to return home tonight and work overtime Tuesday and Wednesday. I’m almost out of food and no water – But I told him OK if he can’t make it and he’s still not home yet.
This has been a WORK DAY. I’ve been melting snow all day long – and John just missed a very bad accident.
Bill had put my deep frying pan on the hut heater this morning with snow in it. I had just left it there – and started John on his school work. I set up the card table and he was working at it – when I went to get the water. As I lifted it up by the handle the handle snapped off as I held it and the boiling water flew in every direction! I yelled at him in that split second and he – quick as a rabbit – ducked and only got one burn (small) on his face! Thank God for that narrow escape. The handle had been exposed to too much heat and just snapped in half!!
I try to be so careful – extra extra careful of lamps, kerosene and candles and hot water.
I built a fire in the wood Yukon stove today and got the big old round tin tub in (that’s been buried in snow all winter) and put it on the wood stove – gradually I had melted enough snow (and oh how much it takes to make any impression at all!) to bathe the children.
Oh so nice to have them even part ways clean – all three girls used same water – never thought I’d come to that plus never knew water could be so hard to come by either!!!!!
John still hasn’t had his. I’m working on more snow but haven’t got enough yet and have expected Bill for several hours now. It’s been two weeks today since we had a shower!! – yet I don’t feel like going down to log house and going through that road ordeal again – Bill says we’ll probably have to walk up which wouldn’t be too bad during the day but it would be late!
Waited until 1:30 A.M. for Bill – kept imagining I heard the sound of the tractor – but on going to door all was silent!! I wrote some letters, knitted, read and finally gave up!
December 28, 1959 Monday
*Notes: Nice day outside – but bleak inside. School has started again here on our homestead even if not in Eagle River as we took the week before Xmas for vacation – as I thought the children would enjoy getting ready for Xmas that week and would more easily settle down to school work after Xmas!
I was right. They are raring to go and eager to get back on schedule of things and so anxious to do good work and not miss their work or be behind their class when they return to school and so am I! John is busy in his Arithmetic books – both work books and school books and is learning more complicated multiplication and going on to division. It seems we never catch up with John’s work or get all done we should do – but we keep on plugging away.
Bill never came home! No water today again – and my propane gas gave out before I could even cook breakfast. The children had cold cereal for breakfast and bread and jelly. I tried to get our Coleman cook stove going but it seems to be leaking and a fire started in back of it and below. I had to throw water on it (a half a coffee pot full). Then I was going to get the fire extinguisher out – but before I used it I got the fire out by beating it out with a towel. I had a scare for a minute and made a mess of the trailer with the water but far better than fire.
I checked it and rechecked it and brought it outside to light but gas seems to be spilling out so I put it away. Now what will we do? I yearn for some coffee and think I’ll melt some snow and try to heat some on oil heater. We’re really out of food – except flour, sugar and staples. I do have potatoes and one more can of Spam if I had a stove going.
Bill HAS to come home tonight [Tuesday] – yet, he told me he would be home Monday and work Tuesday and Wednesday! This is when I don’t like to be so isolated!!
Radio says there has been a terrible storm from New Jersey, NY to Boston. Snow, winds etc. – worst since hurricane years ago I remember so well. We’re lucky here – not to have storms like that.
10:30 – We relented and I heated our last can of stew over the oil stove (heater) and by then even it tasted good. I made Kool Aid for the children from melted snow – and to bed. (Wrote Mom more this evening and will put her letter in here).
It’s now 11:30 – tomorrow we must walk OUT if Bill doesn’t come home. I just undressed and climbed into bed. Must stop running to the door thinking I hear the tractor. My usual evening things tonight hold absolutely no appeal to me. I don’t want to knit although I’ve started mittens (first time on four needles for Cindy) or read or anything. I want to know Bill is alright and to have him here – please Bill come!!
I’ll set the alarm tonight (first time I’ve set it since Bill hasn’t been here!) for 4:00 A.M. and we’ll leave here at 5:00!! – Well is that early enough?? And it will be so cold waiting for a ride at the bottom of the mountain. We are so dependent on Bill – for oil, gas, supplies –
I’d love to homestead way off – if Bill could be with us. I’d like to hunt our own meat and cache it away – get all our supplies in for the winter early – have a wood cook stove – I’d truly love it. I tease Bill and urge him to stay and try it here. He says we could never make out – but if we had our bills paid and raised perhaps sheep – those are foolish dreams. Still it could be ever so nice and right now he’d be here!!
Golly, what’s wrong with me? I’ve done so well – it’s expecting him and not having him come – and knowing he would if he could and wondering.
LATER — I just simply can’t sleep. I’m writing this by flash light – still listening – oh, how I yearn for Bill tonight. I feel so all alone.
This is really only the second time. Last time also was when I expected him and he didn’t come.
As I try to go off to sleep I hear a noise – it sounds like the tractor – urging its way up the mountain road – Does silence have a noise – it’s so quiet I can hear my heart pounding. Silence, silence. Where is Bill? All I ask is for his safety and well being.
December 29, 1959 Tuesday 11:00 P.M.
Last night about this time I sat here writing you a letter – listening with straining ears for the welcome sound of a tractor to tell me Bill was coming home. I waited up until 1:30 A.M. – I didn’t want to be asleep when he got here BUT he didn’t.
Twenty four hours later and still no Bill. I listened to “Mukluk Telegraph” on KENI station on my wonderful radio – a special broadcast where messages are relayed to people like me, living in the bush, but no word. So, here I sit again waiting.
It seems I’ve done a great deal of waiting since we began homesteading. I guess it’s a woman’s role all over the world – one which I am now accustomed to but like none the more for it. It’s hard to wait – especially when you don’t know and tonight I’ve gotten a little worried. Jeep trouble? – could be – but no message.
Seeing he was home over the long holiday I would have just as soon he waited several days but we’d been out of water for two whole days again and I’d been melting snow (which is a slow process and laborious but at least I’m grateful for the snow – there was a time when we had neither snow OR water – funny how one becomes grateful for such strange things).
But it was agreed he’d come home last night and work Tuesday and Wednesday and come home again Thursday. We’re out of water and propane gas. As of today and I almost started a fire trying to get the Coleman camp stove going – I guess it leaks and I won’t try again. This morning we had shredded wheat (last of it). At noon – sandwiches (good thing I saved the bread since last Thursday) – used the last of it and after waiting until tonight at 10:30 for Bill. So we heated the last can of canned stew (ugh!!) over gas heater!!
I’ve even melted drinking water today – and yesterday gave everyone baths by building a fire in the Yukon stove and melting the big wash tub full of snow. It was to be a kind of a surprise for Bill – but he never came home.
It’s unlike Bill to cause us concern or leave us when he knows we’re out of supplies!!
Last Thursday he brought food but today is pay day and he was to bring a big order up yesterday. I almost went down yesterday – it’s been two weeks and one day since we’ve been OUT – but probably will have to walk up late at night or spend three hours on the last mile of road (how well I remember last time) so thought I’d wait until the weekend and go down and come up during day light.
Now I have no choice if Bill doesn’t come home tonight. Then we’ll have to get up at 4:00 (and just put children to bed – waiting for Bill) and go out with Thomas or Pullen. I hate to walk down alone and it’s snowing now.
We started school again here as we took vacation the week before Xmas but other schools are off now. Another reason I hate to go down.
Bill has trouble pulling the trailer up now and is going to buy a flat sled to pull supplies up behind tractor – but we walk!!
The kids are marvelous sports. Last night John stayed up and worked on the model airplane he and his Dad started Sunday. Today after school, we worked a big cross word puzzle and I showed Linda how to purl – she knits well. I gave her and Cindy a knitting set for Xmas – it has smaller needles in it and they can manage them much better. Today she completed her doll blanket she started on Xmas – just plain knitting. Cindy finds it harder but two years difference in ages.
She and Sharon played Chinese checkers – then Linda and Cindy – and so this evening passed – with a lollypop treat made by Cindy for each for Xmas and saved because they had so much sweets and so welcome tonight as a morale booster. She made cups out of egg carton, two together and decorated and put life savers in each cup and two lollypops. Oh, such squeals of pleasure they brought forth tonight.
I made molasses cookies in Xmas shapes and enormous gingerbread boys cut and decorated in green, red and white –
Fruit cake devoured. Children and I made spice cookies and sugar cookies and each had a whole tray to do themselves in Xmas shapes (I think I told you) and then each decorated as they pleased. They took their prettiest and did up for Xmas presents for Daddy.
But all is gone now and mince pie, apple pie, chocolate pie I made yesterday.
Still we have little up here in way of fresh fruits, vegetables etc. and mostly canned meat. Last Thursday Bill brought up lettuce and tomatoes and oh, such a treat you can’t imagine. We haven’t had fresh milk since we’ve been here – all canned and powdered – and now we’re OUT of all but flour, sugar and oatmeal!
Well, it’s 11:30 P.M. I guess I better stop! I just keep listening and listening. Will enclose a note tomorrow to tell you what happened!
P.S. Donned my coat etc. and thought I’d go outside to get some fresh air and listen intently. It’s really snowing now. The weatherman said ‘no snow’ but I found out weeks ago that we have our own weather here in the mountains – and it IS SNOWING here. It is lonely tonight – not a light or sign of habitation. Usually I like this but tonight I don’t. I want Bill at night – I’ll never get used to that.
I could easily stay here all day – all winter – if I thought he’d be home come night – it’s our highlight of the day. Even then – I don’t worry if I don’t expect him – Oh, I know he’s alright but —- —-
The children look so sweet and peaceful asleep. Thank God they trust me and I can make them happy up here –!!
I keep forgetting that I haven’t written oftener. I must tell you how much your radio has meant to me – a voice – music – it means so very much to us!!! And during Xmas the music was beautiful. We heard Dicken’s Xmas Carol and all the stories. It really made Xmas for us and I think especially for Sharon who couldn’t remember the songs from last year. You’re my Xmas angel! Love, Mildred
Later next day – Bill got home at 6:15 in the morning! I was going to walk out and decided to wait until tonight — He tried Monday night and tractor wouldn’t make first hill – battled it for three hours and then went back to log house where he arrived at 4:00 A.M. Spent all last night battling hill last night – has had no sleep – ate breakfast and now is leaving again.
He’s safe!! How he keeps awake I’ll never know!!
Happy New Year
P.S. Only one month to go.
December 30, 1959 Wednesday [Three hours before Bill returned up the mountain.]
*Notes: 3:00 A.M. – I slept for a short while awakening with a strange feeling gripping my being – it took hold of me suddenly without any warning. For the first time since I’ve been here alone – FEAR clutched me in her grip. Stark fear.
Something must have happened to Bill – that I cannot stand. I must know today!!!
I get up and look outside. Still snowing, no wind but steadily.
Oh, dear God how alone I now feel on this mountain.
Perhaps something happened to him Monday morning on his way down. Nobody would look for him or know thinking he was with us.
I realize again I’m not brave up here alone – just very trusting!! – Trusting of God.
And trust of Bill –
I dread walking down that mountain with these children. If something happened to us nobody would know or suspect — — until Bill came home IF he isn’t hurt – What shall I do?
4:30 A.M. – Got John [age 9] up and we talked at great length and decided to give Bill one more day – and night. Surely the Jeep or the tractor broke down and tomorrow (tonight) he’ll be here. I must be steady for the children’s sake and it’s so dark and snowing –
6:15 A.M. – Bill is home – thank God. He wants breakfast and he’ll turn around and go to work – Oh, my darling – how can he?? Is it humanly possible?
He says, “My homestead is my second job – right now both require overtime. I’ll rest this New Year’s weekend.” Thank goodness for that long weekend again, I say.
[Journal history of previous three days]
Monday night Bill shopped after working overtime and came home – or rather tried to but the tractor didn’t have power it should and pulling heavily loaded trailer it just wouldn’t make that first steep hill. He labored over it for three hours. Finally turned around and left. He reached log house at 4:00 A.M. and slept several hours in the chair and then headed back to work.
Tuesday tried again. First spent evening building a box to drag sled fashion behind the tractor to carry supplies in – (tried to buy flat sled and couldn’t). After building the box he left. Haven’t heard details but will add later (he’s left now). He arrived home at 6:15 in the morning.
I feel terrible to think he’s doing all this to bring us fuel, groceries etc., but we must live here and it’s a part of it all. It can’t be helped and even he thinks someday we’ll certainly be able to get up here easier. This is temporary if only his health holds up!!!
The box worked fine and it’s amazing to see all it held. Three enormous boxes of groceries and water cans.
I got Bill a good breakfast after he hooked up my propane.
(Everyone reading this will think why weren’t they better prepared?) We’re taking it best we can and doing what we find necessary as we go and to me it’s always a wonder we’re here at all. Perhaps others will gain from our mistakes but they say experience is the best teacher and I know in my case it has been!
When we’re through homesteading on a mountain we’ll know how to do it. [smiley face]
I eagerly dive to the bottom of the box for mail…..
We’re truly blessed and I’ll see Bill rests this weekend!
December 30, 1959 Wednesday
Have just read and re-read your two letters Bill brought with him! How eagerly I look for your mail. So sorry C. and C. had so much sickness. I hardly say anything, even knock on wood, for sickness here would present a major crisis! I surely hope they are well now!!
I constantly think about you all and dream more and more of our trip to California. I want to stay a month but Bill only has a week or so vacation and government won’t let me go unless he goes. I could come back alone but really dread to.
I mostly (?) want to come in February but if school won’t agree and they have missed three more weeks already than I’d planned and will total eleven weeks when I’m through – then I’ll come in May. School lets out here in May and we have the log house leased until June – so I’d get back in time to move out. But will you be there in May? I doubt it. Would that be a bad time for you? I’ve thought of putting children in school there for a month but Alaska’s schools are so advanced I hesitate to!
It’s almost definite a new modern school will be built on the field behind our mail boxes across from Bockstahler’s Alaska Woodcraft Shop in Eagle River. It will be erected this summer. Won’t that be wonderful? I hate the children going on icy roads in crowded buses. I don’t know where we will live next winter but that will work out in due time.
I wish you could spend all summer with us. Would you like to??? We have the log house leased until June and you can come any time and stay there you know until June. I just didn’t want to feel we were dependent on it – for our homesteading it was an emergency measure to call on you. I hope and pray we’ll be through February 1st – if all goes OK. Then I’ll be a new person.
I could come down in May and you could return with me for summer. You could write all summer. I’ll write a book if only for our children to read to their children – and I love to write. I want you to write and feel the time has come…..
I feel good today and am contented here when Bill is OK. Love, Me.
December 30, 1959 Wednesday early
*Notes: How different everything seems now that I know everyone is well in our world – I feel fine – Oh, so good – and I am contented here once again!!
Oh, Bill, take care. Without you this homestead would be nothing – our world would fall apart without you!!!
Soon it will be a New Year and we have great cause to celebrate I feel! We will – here on our Homestead – I’m glad we were here over the holiday!!
I’m sure January will fly by!! – Even though we’ll live here perhaps for a lifetime – never again will we be homesteading in quite the same way – and January will be our last month.
Oh, so much we’ve learned and how much still to be learned…
Our Homestead – once so alien and strange to me (but always dear) is now so familiar – every little hill, tree and mountain range – to become more so with each passing day.
Days are gradually getting a little longer. The sun now shines fully on the craggy Pinnacle Mountain far behind and above our homestead. I wonder when we will feel its welcome warmth!! I hate to leave here. I wish with all my heart I could stay and feel the sun’s first rays and see the snows melt and the green grass and flowers emerge from beneath their winter blanket.
But leave we must – for this year. I hope next winter by some miracle we will be able to stay all winter long!!
+ book blurb
The Demise of Mildred
A forensic biography of my severely abusive Borderline Personality Disorder mother
Taken together, the multiple volumes of “The Demise of Mildred” present what is probably the most comprehensive case study of a severely abusive Borderline Personality Disorder mother ever written. This is not any kind of a ‘How To’ series. It is a child abuse survivor’s clear disclosure of her perpetrator’s madness as her voice speaks within Mildred’s own words as they were preserved until her death in 2003.
The fascinating observations Linda makes about her mother aim a sparkling light into the deepest crevices of how the matrix of her troubled BPD-mother’s brain-mind worked to create a living hell for her daughter and a rollicking unstable life for her family. The breadth of this intriguing story carries its readers on a chaotic ride as Mildred catapults her family from suburban Los Angeles in 1957 through years of an Alaskan mountainside homesteading saga that was all directly tied to the unmet needs of a woman who found no rest from her disorder in her lifetime.
This daring and original work is an insightful and compassionate presentation of severe infant-child abuse, Borderline Personality Disorder, and the origins of both. It also shows how the telling of a parent’s story paves the way for the healing of our own. It is an authentic study of one of the most troubling, hidden and mysterious mental illnesses known to humanity as it highlights how dangerous to her offspring a BPD mother can be.